Facing Mortality

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  • Topic: Death, Brain death, Clinical death
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  • Published : February 7, 2012
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Facing Mortality
Brad Gillam
ENG 125
October 10, 2011

In this paper I have been asked to compare and contrast literary works involving the topic of my choosing. For this paper I chose the topic of death. Death can be told in many different ways, and looked at the same. This paper is going to decide how you feel about death, is it a lonely long road that ends in sorrow, or a happy journey that ends at the heart of the soul? You decide as we take different literary works to determine which way you may feel. First I am going to give a little bit of overview about how people other than myself feel about death and what they think death really is. “The word death comes from Old English deað, which in turn comes from Proto-Germanic *dauþaz (reconstructed by etymological analysis). This comes from the Proto-Indo-European stem *dheu- meaning the 'Process, act, condition of dying'.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Death) There are also said to be many different processes that actually consider someone dead. Physiological death is seen as a process not just an event. In this process there is a dividing line between life and death that depends on factors beyond the presence or absence of vital signs. Clinical death is not necessary or sufficient for a determination of legal death. Someone that has a working heart and lungs determined to be brain dead can be pronounced legally dead without clinical death occurring. The medical definition of death becomes more problematic, paradoxically, as scientific knowledge and medicine advance. There are also different signs of death or strong indications that a person is no longer alive such as cessation of breathing, cardiac arrest, pallor mortis, livor mortis, algor mortis, rigor mortis, and decomposition. Cardiac arrest is having no pulse, pallor mortis is paleness which happens in the 15-120 minutes after death, livor mortis is a settling of the blood in the lower portion of the body, algor mortis is the reduction in body temperature following death which is generally a steady decline until matching ambient temperature, rigor mortis is where the limbs of the corpse become stiff and difficult to more or manipulate, and finally decomposition which is the reduction into simpler forms of matter, accompanied by a strong, unpleasant odor. Brain death defines death as a point in time at which brain activity ceases. 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 requires drawing precise boundaries between life and death. In the United States, a person is only dead by law if a Statement of Death also called a Death certificate is approved by a licensed medical practitioner. There are various legal consequences follow death, including the removal from the person of what in legal terminology is called personhood. Having brain activity or capability to resume brain activity, is a necessary condition to legal personhood in the United States. “It appears that once brain death has been determined…no criminal or civil liability will result from disconnecting the life-support devices.” (Dority v. Superior Court of San Bernardino County, 193 Cal. Rptr. 228, 291 (1983)) (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Death) Another website says that death is life’s ending. Vital processes are those by which organisms develop or maintain themselves. These processes include chemosynthesis, photosynthesis, cellular respiration, cell generation, and maintenance of homeostasis. Death is the ending of the vital processes by which an organism sustains itself. Life’s ending is one thing, and the condition of having life over is another and death can refer to either. One hand the end of life might be a process where our lives are progressively extinguished, until finally they are gone. On the other it might be a momentary even and this event might be understood in three ways. First, it...
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