Death

Death particularly the death of humans has commonly been considered a sad or unpleasant occasion, due to the affection for the being that has died and the termination of social and familial bonds with the deceased. Other concerns include fear of death, necrophobia, anxiety, sorrow, grief, emotional pain, depression, sympathy, compassion, solitude, or saudade. Many cultures and religions have the idea of an afterlife, and also hold the idea of reward or judgement and punishment for past sin.

Senescence refers to a scenario when a living being is able to survive all calamities, but eventually dies due to causes relating to old age. Animal and plant cells normally reproduce and function during the whole period of natural existence, but the aging process derives from deterioration of cellular activity and ruination of regular functioning. Aptitude of cells for gradual deterioration and mortality means that cells are naturally sentenced to stable and long-term loss of living capacities, even despite continuing metabolic reactions and viability. In the United Kingdom, for example, nine out of ten of all the deaths that occur on a daily basis relates to senescence, while around the world it accounts for two-thirds of 150,000 deaths that take place daily (Hayflick & Moody, 2003).

One of the challenges in defining death is in distinguishing it from life. As a point in time, death would seem to refer to the moment at which life ends. Determining when death has occurred is difficult, as cessation of life functions is often not simultaneous across organ systems. Such determination therefore requires drawing precise conceptual boundaries between life and death. This is difficult, due to there being little consensus on how to define life. This general problem applies to the particular challenge of defining death in the context of medicine.

Before about 1930, most people in Western countries died in their own homes, surrounded by family, and comforted by clergy, neighbors, and doctors making house calls. By the mid-20th century, half of all Americans died in a hospital. By the start of the 21st century, only about 20 to 25% of people in developed countries died outside a medical institution. The shift away from dying at home, towards dying in a professionalized medical environment, has been termed the "Invisible Death". The "Invisible Death" process was extremely slow and infinitesimal. It took many years to shift to this new location where dying was commonly taking place outside the home.

Before about 1930, most people in Western countries died in their own homes, surrounded by family, and comforted by clergy, neighbors, and doctors making house calls. By the mid-20th century, half of all Americans died in a hospital. By the start of the 21st century, only about 20 to 25% of people in developed countries died outside a medical institution. The shift away from dying at home, towards dying in a professionalized medical environment, has been termed the "Invisible Death". The "Invisible Death" process was extremely slow and infinitesimal. It took many years to shift to this new location where dying was commonly taking place outside the home.

Death in warfare and in suicide attack also have cultural links, and the ideas of dulce et decorum est pro patria mori, mutiny punishable by death, grieving relatives of dead soldiers and death notification are embedded in many cultures. Recently in the western world, with the increase in terrorism following the September 11 attacks, but also further back in time with suicide bombings, kamikaze missions in World War II and suicide missions in a host of other conflicts in history, death for a cause by way of suicide attack, and martyrdom have had significant cultural impacts.

After death, the remains of an organism become part of the biogeochemical cycle, during which animals may be consumed by a predator or a scavenger. Organic material may then be further decomposed by detritivores, organisms which recycle detritus, returning it to the environment for reuse in the food chain, where these chemicals may eventually end up being consumed and assimilated into the cells of a living organism. Examples of detritivores include earthworms, woodlice and dung beetles.