The death (like English to the of Germanic dauþus ' death 'and dawjan , die') is the end of life or (as a biological death in a living being ) the final failure of all life-support function processes . The transition from life to death is called dying , and death that has occurred is also called exitus letalis . The Greek name is Thanatos , the Latin Mortus .
Difficulty of definition
The difficulty of a definition that is valid for all living beings can be illustrated by the examples of the death of protozoa and death of mammals . In the first case, death is defined either by the irreversible loss of cell integrity ( lysis ) or the irreversible loss of the ability to divide cells (through the destruction of the genome ), in the second case by the irreversible disintegration of vital organs such as the cardiovascular system and the central nervous system ( brain and spinal cord) ), which in turn is triggered by the death of the individual cells. Dying is a process and the occurrence of death can rarely be assigned to an exact point in time. Death is the state of an organism after the end of life and should not be confused with dying and near-death experiences that are part of life.
Death as a biological phenomenon
The biological reason for natural death - and aging - is suspected by scientists in the mechanism of evolution : If a living being has successfully passed on its genetic material (are the offspring capable of survival), then the genetic material continues in the offspring. Events that become effective after the last successful transmission of genetic information to the relaying organism, have no direct effect on the gene pool of the kind . As a result, factors can accumulate in the genome that determine further life after successful genetic transmission without being exposed to selection pressure. These include hereditary diseases that only break out at an advanced age , such as Huntington's disease, a nervous disease . According to the theory, these “genetically untidy corners” cause old age. Experiments with certain species of sea cucumber show that death from old age does not have to be inevitable : These have been kept alive for decades without any signs of aging. The prerequisite for the complete suspension of selection is that there is an age from which reproduction is no longer possible. This is often not the case with living beings that reproduce by budding . According to this theory, these should potentially be immortal .
However, after the genetic transmission, two factors can bring about selection pressure on genes that affect the time of death: With many living beings, it is the parents' responsibility to raise their offspring. If the parents die during this period, the chances for the survival of the offspring and thus also for the passing on of their genetic material to the next generation decrease. On the other hand, an extremely long survival after reproduction or even after the loss of reproductive capacity would mean that there is less space and resources for the offspring in their habitat . In this regard, the death of the parents is useful and necessary for the offspring.
From an evolutionary point of view, a rapid succession of generations has the advantage that a faster adaptation to changed environmental conditions is possible: Changed selection pressure can then quickly lead to a change in the gene pool. This is countered by the fact that longer development and life spans (time spans for reproduction) are required for more complex living beings.
Causes of death
Causes of death are dealt with in medicine in the epidemiology department . There are common, rare, and gender-specific causes of death in humans. The mortality expresses the probability of dying from a disease. In a narrower sense, when death occurs, a distinction is made between tangible causes , on the one hand, and psychogenic factors derived from the respective circumstances of the death of a person are discussed, which should appear as the cause of death.
- Natural causes of death include illness and the failure of bodily functions.
- Injuries ( accidents , crimes , war ), poisoning and suicides are counted among the non-natural causes of death . In traffic accidents, for example, many of the accident victims die as a result of multiple trauma .
The proportion of fatal (fatal) cardiovascular diseases , accidents and injuries is falling. In Germany, the rate of deaths caused by cardiovascular diseases and so-called external causes fell significantly between 1990 and 2004. The mortality rates for cardiovascular diseases decreased between 1990 and 2004 for men by 38.2 percent and for women by 33.1 percent. External mortality decreased by 32.7 percent for men and 40.1 percent for women. In contrast, cancer mortality decreased by only 15.8 percent in women and by 18.7 percent in men. In 2011, 40.2% of deaths in Germany were due to cardiovascular diseases and 26% to cancer.
The transition from life to death
The process of dying is the transition from life to death. The exact line between life and death is difficult to define. The further one is from the border zone between the two, the clearer the difference between life and death seems, the closer one is to the border, the more blurred it becomes. In this way, living beings that are already in cardiac arrest can sometimes be successfully resuscitated (see also near death experience ). Likewise, not only individual cells and tissues, but also the spinal cord (as part of the central nervous system) can react to external influences during the “intermediate life” many hours after the occurrence of brain death . Here, too, the definition of a “time of death” depends on the way in which it is defined.
In humans, it is usually the job of a doctor to determine death. For organ removal for organ transplantation , death is defined as brain death. The certain signs of death are used to determine final death .
The death of people from a legal point of view
There is no legal definition of death in German law. The transplant law requires for an organ from a human (among other conditions) cumulatively the death of the organ donor ( para. 1 no. 2 TPG) and the final unrecoverable failure of the overall function of the cerebrum, cerebellum and brain stem (total brain death, (2) No. 2 TPG). The legislature has thus not made a definition of death, but merely stipulated total brain death as a necessary condition for organ removal. In legal practice, however, death i. S. d. (1) no. 2 TPG means total brain death. In most cases expressly based on transplant law, the case law also falls back on total brain death as a definition of death in other areas of law in cases of doubt.
The death must be reported to the competent registry office on the third working day following the death at the latest with the submission of the death certificate ( Civil Status Act ), which will notify the death and issue a death certificate . According to and PersStG, roommates of the apartment in which the deceased lived and heads of institutions, clinics, homes, if the deceased died there, are obliged to report .
The dead human body is a corpse that is in need of care for the dead . There is no ownership of a corpse, only appropriation rights. Those responsible for caring for the dead are obliged to carry out the funeral in accordance with the funeral law of the federal states . The heir is obliged to pay the funeral costs according to BGB .
The Swiss Transplantation Act of December 2003 defines in Art. 9 Clause 1 the death of a person as the “irreversible failure of the functions of the brain, including the brain stem”.
The exact time of death can play a role in questions of inheritance law . A person's legal capacity ends with death , even if post-mortem personal rights and certain other protective rights (e.g. in the form of confidentiality ) continue.
Cause of death
In the case of the - at least from a medical and scientific point of view - concrete causes of death, an attempt is made to differentiate between violent and non-violent causes of death. This rough subdivision is referred to by the officials responsible for the investigation with the term type of death and knows the possibilities natural and non-natural . The designation as unexplained indicates an incomplete (sometimes provisional) test result. A “cause of death” that is ultimately determined after the death of an individual is a reconstructive formulation that is the result of a careful classification of the individual observations available into an empirical framework, which is the better the more observations are available.
The formulation of causes of death can be subject to errors : for example insufficient examination of the deceased or misunderstanding of causal relationships. The specificity - Paradox is also a not rare issue: Just because a particular observation was particularly well documented, it is not the sole reason the most important factor in the pathophysiological process of dying. The investigation of the cause of death requires, depending on the specific question, an external examination of the corpse , an autoptic opening of the corpse and a toxicological investigation with the question of poisoning. The question of poisoning by drugs such as alcohol or medication or by other substances can usually not be answered with an exclusively external examination.
Which investigation steps are indispensable for establishing a cause of death depends on the one hand on the public claim to the result of the determination of the cause of death and on the other hand on the specific circumstances. There are types of events that should not be overlooked in the interests of the administration of justice; this includes killings , neglect, medical malpractice , accidents as a result of technical defects, accidents as a result of irresponsible behavior; and we know of notifiable infectious diseases , the presence of which can sometimes be established after an official examination has been completed.
The officially prescribed strategy for investigating the causes of death therefore also differs from one legislature to another. At least is appropriate
- routine toxicological testing of blood and urine,
- the routine inspection of the external body surface and
- the routine examination of the previous death circumstances and Auffindesituation with every death by
- trained personnel.
Without good reason, none of these four areas of importance for the investigation of causes of death should be left out. It is therefore not surprising that legislation that does without one or more of these four areas that are important for investigating causes of death can lead to surprises.
Time of death
Forensic medicine has various methods available to determine the time of death or the time in which the corpse was laid . The assessment of rigor mortis and corpse marks give rough guide values (onset of rigor mortis after 2-4 hours, full expression after 6-8 hours, resolution after 2-3 days). One of the most accurate methods is the determination of the core body temperature , which is used to calculate the cooling time, taking into account the outside temperature, the body weight and the circumstances of the location. Insect larvae are also assessed to determine the time of death. From this, forensic entomology , a special field of research in forensic medicine , has developed.
In philosophy and religion
Four basic philosophical attitudes can be distinguished on the consequences of death for the affected individual:
- Death is the final end of the physical-organic and the active, physically ascertainable spiritual existence of a living being (e.g. total death theory )
- Death is just a phase that eventually leads to a new individual life ( reincarnation through reincarnation )
- Death is the irreversible transition into another state of being (continued life in a realm of the dead , afterlife , resurrection , heaven , immortality ). a. life after death
- Life and death are indifferent (in some mystical directions , like in zen )
Post-death contact and medium
Some believe in post- death contacts or that a medium can establish contact with deceased people. This so-called mediumism is particularly widespread in England, Wales and Switzerland.
In England and Wales, media appear in many churches. In Switzerland, many media outlets have their own practices, appear on large stages and on television and work with the police on investigative work, among other things.
Reception, dealing with death in society
Dealing directly with death has become rarer, as it often no longer occurs with the family or in the midst of companions (such as in war or in the event of a disaster), but is then taken over in clinics and the corpse is then taken over by funeral directors .
Cultural sociological approach
The social approach to death depends heavily on whether a culture denies or affirms “death” as a fact. You emphasize one of the two possibilities that are psychologically present in every single person, because on the one hand he learns credibly already in adolescence "All people are mortal" and on the other hand he has the inner conviction that he is alive until the threshold of serious illness or old age always on.
If a culture denies the finality of death, then the living have to reckon with the continued work of the deceased, they may have to fear to adjust to their own physical death in order to optimize their other kind of continued life. For example, to avoid punishment for guilt in this world in the hereafter . Correspondingly, such cultures develop concepts of physical or ghostly survival, rebirth, eternal life and corresponding customs and rituals , such as housed burial forms , ancestral cults , sacrifices and intercessions .
If a culture denies any further life in this or the other world, i.e. if it regards death as final - like the ancient Greeks Hades - then its members are entirely reliant on shaping their here and on influencing their continued life in this world, especially for her memory of looking after her after- glory in the strongest case . Customized customs and rituals can also be found here (memorial tombs , regular commemorative dates, memorials ).
Here we work with the opposition and effect of the sexual and death instincts in each individual. Both urges cannot be lived out, so they have to be suppressed less or more. This happens not only consciously, but also unconsciously - predictably given the strength of these urges. Accordingly, death is repressed or processed in such a way that it recedes into the preconscious and only bothered people occasionally in everyday life. But it does not disappear completely, but becomes noticeable in habits such as regular fearful prayers , dreams or neuroses .
Research and science
Several sciences deal directly with death and, in connection with it, the dying and bereaved:
- Thanato sociology (as a special branch of sociology )
- Palliative medicine
The death of humans is also part of the research area of death research and there in particular the near death experience .
In literature and art
Often death is personified in literature, for example
- in Johannes von Tepl's The Plowman from Bohemia ,
- in the fairy tale of the Brothers Grimm The Godfather Death ,
- in Hugo von Hofmannsthal Jedermann ,
- in Wolfgang Borchert's outside the door ,
- in Woody Allen's one-act play Death Knocks (“Death knocks”, set to music by Christian Jost ) or
- in Terry Pratchett's Mort ("Grim Reaper").
- In Paul Celan's poem Death Fugue it says: "Death is a master from Germany".
Death is also a central theme in the works of many other authors, such as B. in:
In the performing arts, the transience of life is represented with the help of various vanitas symbols . Death is often shown as a skeleton with a scythe ( grim reaper ) or skull . The scythe is used to separate the soul from the body.
The fact, the year or the date of the death of a person but also the extinction of an animal or plant species is often represented, especially in Christian-dominated cultures, with the character cross †. For miners and closed mines there are crossed "hammers" with the hammer heads pointing downwards. Scouts know the circle symbol with a bold point in the middle with the general meaning as a floor sign "I have done my job."
The death of people is often a taboo subject . Hence, all languages have euphemistic expressions to describe death. Often these are expressions that instead of the finality of death emphasize a transition into a potential afterlife . In the German language are euphemisms like leaving , demise , death , going home , Dormition , the last trip to take common. Regionally, “to be recalled” (to Christian God) is also often used. A person dies in particularly painful circumstances, it is also called perish or colloquially even from croak , scrape off and die to the inhumane circumstances to emphasize his death. A soldier who has died in combat is called a fallen soldier .
In addition, there are many casual expressions such as “give up the spoon ”, “ bite into the grass ”, “ walk across the Jordan ”, “ walk across the Wupper ”, “look at the radishes from below” or “bless the temporal”. Other names for death, which indicate a more familiar way of dealing with it, are: Boanlkramer , Freund Hein , Schlafes Bruder , Gevatter Tod , der Schnitter or Hein Klapperbein.
The death of non-human beings is usually described with specific expressions: killed animals were euthanized , they died or died , they were eaten by animals or slaughtered by people , also slaughtered , they were killed by hunters . In the case of plants , the name is: they die or perish .
- Care for the dead , compulsory burial , cemetery
- Grief , hospice movement , euthanasia
- Death rattles ( rattle breathing )
- Georg Hahn: On the meaning of death. Texts from three millennia . Swedenborg Verlag, Zurich 1975, ISBN 3-85927-127-X .
- Jörg-Johannes Lechner: Anthropology of death. Philosophical-anthropological analysis of the borderline scientific phenomena dying, death and afterlife. Hamburg 2019, ISBN 978-3-339-10600-1 .
- Philippe Ariès : History of Death. From the French by Hans-Horst Henschen and Una Pfau, Munich / Vienna 1980; 10th edition. Dtv, Munich 2002, ISBN 3-423-30169-4 .
- Philippe Ariès: Studies on the History of Death in the Occident. (Original: Essais sur l'histoire de la mort en Occident du Moyen-Age à nos jours. Paris 1975). Munich / Vienna 1976, ISBN 3-446-12284-2 .
- Helene Schadel: ΘANATOΣ. Studies on the concept of death in ancient philosophy and medicine. (Medical dissertation Würzburg 1974) Wellm, Pattensen; now at Königshausen & Neumann, Würzburg 1975 (= Würzburg medical-historical research. Volume 2), ISBN 3-921456-01-0 .
- Richard Béliveau, Denis Gingras: Death. The last secret of life. - Data, facts, inexplicable things. Munich 2012, ISBN 978-3-466-34570-0 .
- Thorsten Benkel , Matthias Meitzler (ed.): Between life and death. Social science border crossings . Springer VS, Wiesbaden 2018, ISBN 978-3-658-22277-2 .
- Norbert Fischer : History of Death in Modern Times. Sutton, Erfurt 2001, ISBN 3-89702-342-3 .
- Alexander Lohner : Death in Existentialism. An analysis of the fundamental theological, philosophical and ethical implications. Schöningh, Paderborn 1997, ISBN 3-506-75245-6 . ( Digitized BSB Munich )
- Giovanni Maio : death. In: Werner E. Gerabek , Bernhard D. Haage, Gundolf Keil , Wolfgang Wegner (eds.): Enzyklopädie Medizingeschichte. De Gruyter, Berlin / New York 2005, ISBN 3-11-015714-4 , pp. 1400-1402.
- Marianne Mischke: Dealing with death. On the change in occidental history. Berlin 1996, ISBN 3-496-02583-2 .
- Sherwin B. Nuland: How We Die. Kindler Verlag, Munich 1994, ISBN 3-426-77237-X .
- Norbert Ohler : Dying and Death in the Middle Ages. Patmos, Düsseldorf 2003, ISBN 3-491-69070-6 .
- Christiane Frohmann (Ed.): A thousand deaths (e-book), Berlin 2014, ISBN 978-3-944195-55-1 .
- Petra Gehring, Maxine Saborowski (ed.): Ambivalences of death. Scientific Book Society, Darmstadt 2007, ISBN 978-3-534-20482-3 .
- Rolf Winau , Hans Peter Rosemeier (ed.): Death and dying. De Gruyter, Berlin / New York 1984, ISBN 3-11-010001-0 .
- Steven Luper: Death. In: Edward N. Zalta (Ed.): Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy .
- David DeGrazia: The Definition of Death. In: Edward N. Zalta (Ed.): Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy .
- Shelly Kagan : Death , Open Yale Courses 2007 (handouts, transcripts, videos, audios)
- IZPP | Issue 1/2012 | Focus on “Life and Death” | Associative project on the main topic (PDF; 2.3 MB)
- Video: Spiegel-TV: near death special , is there life after death? View into the hereafter, March 9, 2014
- WebHistoriker.de: Dying, death and afterlife - the views in the late Middle Ages and early modern times
- Vincent Mayr: Little Death . In: RDK Labor (2020).
- Friedrich Kluge , Alfred Götze : Etymological dictionary of the German language . 20th edition, ed. by Walther Mitzka . De Gruyter, Berlin / New York 1967; Reprint (“21st unchanged edition”) ibid 1975, ISBN 3-11-005709-3 , p. 780.
- Ekkehard Grundmann (ed.): Introduction to general pathology and parts of pathological physiology. 5th edition. Stuttgart / New York 1985, pp. 4-6.
- kma-online.de: Cancer on the rise
- this Franz Borkenau : End and Beginning. About the generations of advanced civilizations and the emergence of the West . Foreword and editor Richard Löwenthal . Stuttgart 1995, ISBN 3-608-93032-9 (with a critical treatment of Sigmund Freud's central theses on the “ death instinct ”).
- Sigmund Freud : Jenseits des Lustprinzips , 1920.
- over the Jordan. on: redensarten-index.de
- over the Wupper. on: redensarten-index.de