Hospice in Historical Perspective

Some commentaries on hospice history, particularly from inside the hospice movement, are inclined to seek ancient roots for what is actually a modern phenomenon. The scholar Cathy Siebold, for example, notes: "The Crusades, which began late in the eleventh century and continued for several hundred years, are a milestone in hospice history" (Siebold 1992, p.

Hospice Option

Approximately 30 percent of people who die in the United States choose hospice care during the last weeks of life. The average length of enrollment in hospice care was forty-eight days in 1999.

How Death Came into the World

Traditional, mythic accounts of the origin of death extend back to the earliest hunter-gatherer cultures. Usually these stories are morality tales about faithfulness, trust, or the ethical and natural balance of the elements of the world.

Human Remains

Archaeologists, anthropologists, and classicists seem unanimous in asserting that the values of every culture, ancient and modern, entail proper disposal of human tissue and dead bodies. Among many peoples, the obligation to put the body properly to rest has been extended to maintaining the places of disposal as sacred sites.

Hunger Strikes

Hunger strikes as a means of protest have been traced to the pre-Christian era in Rome. They were revived in the early twentieth century in England by women suffragists.


Social scientists report that humans have employed hunting as a subsistence strategy for at least 90 percent of Homo sapiens' history. The anthropologists Richard Lee and Richard Daly conceptualize hunting, the pursuit and killing of other animals, as one component of "foraging," a broader complex of subsistence activities that also includes the "gathering of wild plant foods, and fishing" (Lee and Daly 1999, p.

Iatrogenic Illness

Literally meaning "physician-induced," the term iatrogenic describes diseases inadvertently resulting from medical treatments or procedures. With more effective and powerful treatments have come side effects that may be more common and harmful.


Western belief systems believe that there is life after death. William James waited until the final pages of his classic Varieties of Religious Experiences (1902) before trying to evaluate this belief.

Immortality, Symbolic

Among the numerous cultural mechanisms for allaying death's sting are envisionments for personal transcendence, such as resurrection, reincarnation, metempsychoses, or some disembodied spiritual existence. In addition to these relatively direct means for personal survival, there are more symbolic forms of immortality that exist.

Incan Religion

Like many ancient Andean people before them, the Incas viewed death in two ways. One was biological death, when the body ceased functionally and was cremated, buried, or mummified.


Most societies agree that the drive to protect and nurture one's infant is a basic human trait. Yet infanticide—the killing of an infant at the hands of a parent—has been an accepted practice for disposing of unwanted or deformed children since prehistoric times.


Influenza is a respiratory infection caused by a family of flu viruses. Often confused with either the common cold or stomach and intestinal infections, most forms of influenza are characterized by a sore throat, headache, chills, body aches, exhaustion, fever, and coughing.

Informed Consent

Twenty-five hundred years of Western medicine, starting with Hippocrates, have been built on the preferred conception that physicians should protect their patients from information about their diseases or treatment options. The oath that has been repeated by physicians for thousands of years articulates clearly that the physician knows what is best for his or her patients.

Injury Mortality

Around the world, about 16,000 people die every day as a result of injuries. For every death, many more people survive but suffer lifelong impairment.


Traditionally, death has been a great taboo in Western culture, a topic delicately sidestepped in polite public company and private reflection alike. But since 1995, the taboo has been at least partially dispelled in the informational glut of the Internet, which has brought the subject of death within easy arm's reach of millions of the previously averse or oblivious—merely typing in the letters "d-e-a-t-h" in the window of a search engine (i.e., www.google.com) yields no fewer than 23,600,000 items, enough to daunt even the most avid scholar or morbid connoisseur of mortality.


Islam is an Arabic word meaning "surrender" or "submission." It is a faith that encompasses approximately one-fifth of humanity. Its adherents reside in almost every country of the world and comprise majorities in large segments of Africa, the Middle East, the Indian subcontinent, and Asia.

Ivan Ilych

"The Death of Ivan Ilych" is widely regarded as one of the most powerful meditations on death and dying in world literature, at least in part because it anticipates modern psychological discussions of the stages of dying. Written in 1886, the novella was the Russian novelist and moral philosopher Leo Tolstoy's first major work of fiction completed after his existential crisis of the late 1870s—a crisis that initiated the search for a new understanding of Christianity that was to preoccupy him for the remainder of his life.


Jainism is an ancient religious and philosophical tradition that is thought to have originated in the Ganges River basin. There remain some 4 million Jains in India, spread mainly between five states, and there is also a small but influential community of emigrants in both Europe and the United States.


Jesus is the historical figure identified by the many forms of Christian tradition as its point of historical origin and the means of Christian believers' eternal destiny. Jesus of Nazareth was a popular Jewish teacher who reflected the tradition of his day—often associated with the Pharisee group of Jews—adhering to a belief in a future resurrection of the dead associated with a day of judgment and a new form of the kingdom of God.


The People's Temple was a new religious movement started by Jim Jones with the intention of promoting racial equality, but instead ended with over 900 people dead from a mass suicide in Jonestown, Guyana. Jones started the People's Temple in Indianapolis, Indiana.


As a cultural and religious group with a historical connection to contemporary Jewish culture, Judaism, dates to the end of the first century of the C.E. The destruction of the temple in Jerusalem in 70 C.E.


Kaddish ("holiness") is an ancient Jewish prayer praising and glorifying God, recited at fixed points of the public prayer of the synagogue, at funeral services, and by mourners of a deceased parent or close relatives.