death

Watching an autopsy has a way of changing one's view on death. Every single one of us – rich, poor, white, black, male, female, religious, atheist – will one day be on a cold metallic cart with a tag on our toe. And the medical examiner will open us up, poke around, extract and weigh a few organs, then ship your lifeless corpse on to the funeral home.

So, the question isn't if we are going to die, but when and how. Science has little to say about the former, but it has collected quite a bit of data on the latter. That's what makes the CDC's weekly report on the dead and dying so morbidly fascinating.

This week, the CDC listed the top 10 causes of death for Americans based on sex. The top 10 causes of death are not the same for men and women. (...

Unlike our ancestors, who encountered it often, members of our modern society seem strangely detached from death. Many people have never even seen a dead body. When I was still an undergraduate in 2002, I witnessed four autopsies being performed at the New York City medical examiner's office. It was a life-changing experience. Watching as a doctor peels a corpse's face off its skull and systematically extracts organs (before stuffing them into a bag and shoving it in the chest cavity) has a way of bringing death to life, so to speak.

While many people may acknowledge death intellectually or philosophically, it still feels like a strange, otherworldly phenomenon that happens primarily to other people. The devastating biological process that is death -- and the...

Bungee Jumper, via Shutterstock 

 

When you're looking to have a lively conversation, nothing fills the bill quite like the topic of risk. Regardless of age, pretty much everyone from 15 to 85 has a very clear idea about how much risk to their physical well being they're willing to accept. For instance, there are those who say that voluntarily introducing any additional risk to their lives -- especially for the sole purpose of being thrilled or entertained -- is ridiculous and idiotic. Others (and you know who these contrarians are) say the acts of merely getting out of bed and crossing the street are inherently risky...

What happens when we die? This question is both existential and biological. While scientists cannot address the first, they certainly can address the second. What happens to your body after you die is not pretty. Alas, there is no such thing as death with dignity when the microbial Grim Reaper arrives.

Decomposition can be roughly divided into five phases: fresh, bloat, active decay, advanced decay, and dry remains. (Images depicting a decomposing pig are at the bottom of this article. Don't scroll all the way down if you are squeamish.)

Dr. Jessica Metcalf of the University of Colorado has made a career studying the stages of decomposition as defined by the types of microbes that consume your body, which she terms the necrobiome. In her latest article,...

clinical trial via shutterstock clinical trial via shutterstock

The worst fear of any clinical trial is causing harm, or even death, in trial participants and unfortunately, for Portuguese pharmaceutical company BIAL, and one of its trial subjects, this fear was recently realized.

In Phase I of a clinical trial for a drug being investigated for treatment of chronic pain (most likely known as BIA 10-2474, though unconfirmed), the death of one...

975584_27295398The period immediately following the death of a spouse or other loved one has traditionally been associated with the concern that a similar fate is imminent for the survivor. To some degree, this concern is justified: bereavement has been shown to be a risk factor for increased mortality, particularly from cardiovascular disease, with grief leading to potential adverse physiological responses. (One recent meta-analysis showed an astounding...