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The 52:52:52 project, launching both on this site and on social media in early 2024 will help you address 52 issues with 52 responses over 52 weeks.

A Mundane Comedy is Dominic Kelleher's new book, which will be published in mid 2024. The introduction is available here and further extracts will appear on this site and on social media in the coming months.

This site addresses what's changing, in our own lives, in our organisations, and in wider society. You'll learn about key changes across more than 150 areas, ranging from ageing and time, through nature and animals, to kindness and love...and very much else inbetween.

Halcyon's aim is to help you reflect on how you can better deal with related change in your own life.

What's Changing? - Death

Death

 

Please see recent death-related change below.

 

See also:

 

In figures:

 

January 2024

  • A woman dies somewhere in the world every two minutes during pregnancy or childbirth, and each day more than 6,000 neonatal babies die within their first four weeks of life. This death toll is especially high in sub-Saharan Africa and mortality rates in the majority of resource-poor countries have stagnated or gone backwards. While the UN’s sustainable development goals set a target of no more than 70 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births by 2030, the global ratio remained three times above that level at 223 per 100,000 in 2020.

 

August 2023

  • In much of the Western world, the dying are typically cared for in hospitals, or in aged care settings. A person’s body will usually be dealt with by a funeral home. Both of these are relatively modern developments; for most of history, family members cared for the dying and prepared the body for burial, but death now largely happens outside of the public eye. Many cultures, however, take a radically different approach. This includes encouraging people to maintain ties to their dead loved ones, such as through personal or communal rituals. In Japan, it’s been estimated that more than half of residents have an altar to their dead ancestors, that allows a person to regularly commemorate and connect with lost loved ones. Having such an altar is associated with less psychological distress.

 

July 2023

  • Fear of death may be the most primal human fear, but it's one we all experience differently. People who are older, in committed relationships, physically healthy, and either very religious or not religious at all tend to be less afraid of death.
  • The clinical name for death’s grip on a person who feels totally defeated by life is psychogenic death. If left untreated, a study in the journal Medical Hypothesis suggested, it can run its course in as little as three weeks. “Psychogenic death is real,” claimed University of Portsmouth researcher John Leach in a statement. “It isn’t suicide, it isn’t linked to depression, but the act of giving up on life and dying usually within days, is a very real condition often linked to severe trauma.”
  • Traditional burial and cremation has a cost for the environment, releasing chemicals into the ground or greenhouse gasses into the air, but a number of other funeral options are showing that death can be green. One of the fastest growing of those is human composting. Also known as “terramation,” human composting starts with the placement of the body in a sealed container with biodegradable material, such as straw or wood chips. Microbes in the body break down the remains, turning them into a nutrient-rich soil in about 1 to 2 months.

 

May 2023

  • In A longer life often means a worse death, Big Think argued that much end-of-life care tends to boost lifespan, with little benefit to healthspan. Drugs and procedures that treat underlying medical conditions in the elderly are often hamstrung in how much “health” they can truly restore. Ultimately, the best way to boost healthspan and hopefully remain independent until the very end is to prevent debilitating conditions from ever cropping up in the first place. 
  • In many countries, developments in medicine and social changes have increased life expectancy and also influenced where people are likely to die. When dying happened at home, it allowed to generations to witness dying, and to grow up with an idea of what dying involves, and what others might need of us when they are dying. Rather than spending our final days at home, we die in institutions such as hospitals and hospices, and dying has become removed and remote. Being told we are dying by someone we trust to have knowledge, such as a doctor, breaks through this suspension of reality and can be disorientating and confusing.
  • Sometimes people with dementia who hadn’t been coherent for years will suddenly revert to their mentally sharp selves for up to several hours, and then die shortly after. The most dramatic case noted by one team was a patient who was bedridden, did not speak, and was unresponsive, according to a clinical director in a hospice care team, who explained “One day the patient got out of bed, went to the dining room, had a steak and engaged with family. The patient then returned to bed, went to sleep, and died the next day.” Evidence of this phenomenon, now known as “terminal lucidity” or “the rally,” can be found in medical papers from as far back as the 1700s - yet we still don’t know much about it.

 

April 2023

 

February 2023

  • survey conducted by the Pew Research Center about Americans’ opinions on death. When asked how long they would want to live, 69% gave a number between 78 and 100. The average ideal life span turned out to be about 90. Only 8% said that they would want to live beyond 100, and only 4% said they would want to live beyond 120.

 

December 2022

 

October 2022

 

September 2022

  • Developed by Dutch startup Loop Biotech, the Living Cocoon is a casket made of mycelium. It takes seven days to grow using local waste ingredients and 30-45 days to disappear once placed in the earth. A human body buried in a mushroom casket is estimated to decompose within three years, versus 10 to 20 in traditional caskets or coffins. Not only is the process faster, it's also cleaner. Toxins in the human body are neutralised by networks of fungi and bacteria, preventing toxins from polluting the soil. Dela, the leading Dutch burial insurance provider, announced that it's including Loop's caskets in its range of funeral products for both burials and cremations. 
  • Aquamation, or flame-less cremation, is a form of water-based cremation that replicates a traditional burial and cremation processes but with significantly fewer carbon emissions. An alkaline solution is heated in a tank that dissolves the body and leaves just the skeleton, which can then be pulverised and returned to the family, like ashes from cremation. Aquamation yields up to 30% more ashes than flame cremation and the remaining sterile solution is rich in organic compounds that can then be used as fertiliser or cleaned and used as water.  

 

August 2022

  • Researchers restored circulation and cellular activity in the vital organs of pigs, such as the heart and brain, one hour after the animals died. The research challenges the idea that cardiac death - which occurs when blood circulation and oxygenation stops - is irreversible, and raises ethical questions about the definition of death. The work followed earlier experiments by the same scientists in which they revived the disembodied brains of pigs four hours after the animals died, calling into question the idea that brain death is final.
  • People who take psychedelics reported diminished fear of dying. The substances could play a role in dealing with anxiety and distress in end-of-life care.

 

July 2022

 

June 2022

 

May 2022

  • Psyche noted that the disorientation of grief can lead to a sense that a part of who we are has died along with the person we have lost. Our sense of self is partly bound up with whom we love - a fact that seems to be reflected in research showing similarities in the neural representations of the self and close others. The extent to which someone feels a loss of identity after the death of a loved one could help explain individual differences in adaptation. What does it mean to be a parent after your child has died? How does a widow act differently than a spouse? People with more severe grieving tend to have more difficulty describing their identity outside of who they were in relation to the person who died

 

February 2022

  • Scientists may be closer to answering an age-old question about what happens to the human brain as we die. Neuroscientists accidentally recorded a dying brain while they were using electroencephalography (EEG) to detect and treat seizures in an 87-year-old man and the patient suffered a heart attack.

 

December 2021

  • Suicidal thoughts and behaviours are a major public health problem: worldwide, we lose approximately 700,000 people to suicide every year. Recent global statistics for suicidal thoughts and behaviours are difficult to ascertain, and vary by nation, but a 2020 survey found that, in the United States alone, an estimated 4.9 per cent of adults had serious thoughts of suicide, and about 0.5 per cent reported a suicide attempt in the past year. 

 

October 2021

  • Some scientists believe that modern old age means we're not living longer, but dying for longer. This has made the quest to make death optional, or at least meaningfully delay it, no longer a fringe pursuit. Curio explored new methods to circumvent the ageing process as tech titans invest in the quest to extend our lives.

 

September 2021

  • The remains of 1,106 people killed on September 11, 2001 - roughly 40 percent of the Ground Zero death toll - have never been identified. For two decades, medical examiners have been performing DNA tests on 22,000 body parts recovered from the wreckage hoping for matches so that families can conduct some sort of burial for their loved ones.

 

August 2021

 

July 2021

  • Dr. Christopher Kerr, Medical Officer at The Center for Hospice and Palliative Care in Buffalo, New York, has devoted his time to documenting the final moments of thousands of terminal patients, focusing on their dreams or visions of deceased loved ones - commonly referred to as visitation dreams and deathbed visions - which tend to bring comfort and even prepare them in some way for the inevitable.

 

March 2021

  • The disruption in healthcare services caused by Covid-19 may have led to an estimated 239,000 maternal and child deaths in South Asia, according to a UN report. It's focused on Afghanistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, home to some 1.8 billion people. The report found that women, children and adolescents were the worst-hit.
  • The UK saw 7% more deaths than normally expected during 2020 - one of the highest in Europe, data from the Office for National Statistics showed. Within the UK, England's death rate was 8% above expected levels across the whole year, Scotland's was 6%, Northern Ireland 5% and Wales 4%. During the autumn wave in 2020, Poland, Spain and Belgium were among the worst affected countries.

 

February 2021

  • Recompose announced that they had finally started operations, after years of working to make composting a legal method of handling the remains of a deceased human. The company's first facility is located in Washington state, US has ten vessels for natural organic reduction, also known as human composting. During the 'laying in', the body is laid in a cradle surrounded by wood chips, alfalfa and straw. The cradle is then placed in a vessel and covered with more plant material, and is left there for 30 days. Microbes and oxygen combine to break down everything, leaving a rich material, much like topsoil purchased for use in a garden. Each body creates one cubic yard of soil amendment.

 

October 2020

  • Covid-19 cuts against a long-standing trend. Since the second world war, wealthy states have had few massive episodes of premature fatality. Their cultures tended to push mortality out of sight, into hospitals and out of polite conversation. The pandemic nudged people in the rich world to adopt the open and pragmatic approaches to death that are more typical in developing countries, where poverty, poor health care, dangerous roads and armed conflict keep people on familiar terms with mortality.
  • For philosopher Roman Krznaric, summarising part of his own book, The Good Ancestor: How to Think Long Term in a Short-Term World, we must learn to confront the terror of death and develop the courage to explore how awareness of our mortality can help us navigate the now. He asks us to think of Frida Kahlo’s self-portrait Thinking About Death, which has a macabre skull plastered on her forehead, or to consider the advice of Albert Camus: “Come to terms with death. Thereafter anything is possible.” But coming to terms with death is easier said than done. One of the secrets for doing so is not to spend hours contemplating visions of the Grim Reaper, but to reimagine our relationship with time itself.

 

September 2020

  • Air pollution in Lagos, Nigeria's most populous city, caused more than 11,000 premature deaths in 2018 alone, according to a World Bank study. Children under five accounted for a majority of those deaths.

 

June 2020

  • Heart disease, stroke, and lung disease remain the top three killers globally. Malaria and influenza also contribute significantly to global mortality, with the former estimated to have killed 445,000 people in 2016 and the latter as the likely cause of death for between 250,000 and 500,000 people annually. With close to 400,000 lives lost in just the first six months of the pandemic, Covid-19 quickly rose to be a new leading cause of death worldwide.
  • A new breed of professional is helping find a way for many to keep "living on" after death, and while many call them digital embalmers, a better term, argued Forbes is "keepers of our digital afterlife".  

 

May 2020

  • Public health experts warned that as lockdowns and travel restrictions reduced access to preventive care and vaccinations around the world, 1.2 million children could die in the second half of 2020 alone. This would be the first rise in global child mortality in six decades. Among the countries expected to be hardest hit were Brazil, Nigeria, Somalia, and Pakistan. 

 

February 2020

  • The question of digital afterlife has been examind by Faheem Hussain, a clinical assistant professor in the School for the Future of Innovation in Society at Arizona State University. During a talk entitled Our Digital Afterlife, Hussain entertained questions that are hard to answer, noting that "We have normalised talking about safety and security of our data and privacy, but we should also start including the conversation of how to manage data afterwards. It's a bit tricky because it involves death and no one wants to talk about it."

 

December 2019

 

September 2019

 

May 2019

 

April 2019

 

March 2019

  • According to BBC figures, more than 70% of people globally still die from non-communicable, chronic diseases. These are not passed from person to person and typically progress slowly. The biggest single killer is cardiovascular disease, which affects the heart and arteries and is responsible for every third death. This is twice the rate of cancers - the second leading case - which account for about one in six of all deaths. Other non-contagious diseases such as diabetes, certain respiratory diseases and dementia are also near the top of the list.

 

February 2019

 

January 2019

 

December 2018

 

November 2018

  • The global suicide rate has fallen by 38 percent since peaking in 1994, according to The Economist. That means some 4 million lives were saved (for comparison: a million people have died in armed conflict during the same period, noted GZEROMedia).

 

October 2018

  • In 1990, 12.5 million children around the world died before reaching the age of five. In 2017, that figure was just 5.4 million. Extrapolated over 28 years, this means that international and local efforts to improve the health of children have saved the lives of 100 million children. See also: What Counts? - Child Mortality Rate.
  • Around the world, suicide rates are falling as a result of urbanisation, greater freedom and some helpful policies. The US is the notable exception: since 2000, its suicide rate has risen by 18%, compared with a 29% drop in the world as a whole. The Economist argued that it could learn from the progress made elsewhere, and more lives could be saved globally with better health services, labour-market policies and curbs on alcohol, guns, pesticides and pills.
  • 47% of American respondents to a survey by YouGov said they believe in ghosts. Indeed, around 15% of them reckon that they have seen one. People who left school aged 18 or younger and those who identify as either Middle Eastern, Native American or mixed race have a far higher propensity to believe in ghosts. Most striking is the large gender gap. Some 53% of women believe in ghosts compared with 40% of men.

 

September 2018

 

August 2018

  • How should we grieve when someone close to us dies? Should we wail and gnash our teeth? Should we swallow our pain? Some would say there is no right answer. You feel whatever you feel, and heal however you heal, and that’s okay. But according to the ancient Stoics – those Greco-Roman philosophers making a comeback as preachers of practical wisdom in a self-help world – there is a correct answer to the question of how we should grieve. And the answer is that we shouldn’t. What’s done is done. There is nothing you can do to change the situation – so move on.
  • The number of deaths caused by terrorist attacks worldwide has declined in recent years, according to reports compiled by the University of Maryland’s Global Terrorism Database, reported GZEROMedia. In 2017, terrorism-related deaths fell nearly 25% compared with the previous year. And since 2014, the global numbers have fallen a full 64%.
  • “The sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light in the darkness of mere being,” Carl Jung wrote as he contemplated life and death
  • Big Think reported on scientists at Stanford University who claim to have been able to figure out just how fast death happens on a cellular level. Researchers took cytoplasm from frog eggs and placed it in a tube. The cytoplasm was picked as its full of proteins, which were visible as bright green globs. The researchers then placed an extract from a cell that had recently undergone programmed cell death at the far end of the tube and measured how quickly it spread. The cells basically self-destructed, started by a "trigger wave" which then spread at roughly at 2mm an hour or 30 micro-centimeters a minute. As death spread, the green globs died out. Interestingly, according to New Scientist, the self-destruction part occurred much faster than the extract itself moved. 

 

July 2018

  • The Voluntary Human Extinction Movement makes a very controversial suggestion for saving the planet - let humans die out.

 

June 2018

  • The specifics of green burials vary widely, but typically they require far fewer resources for the care of the body and skip a number of the traditional steps, making them better for the environment. Plus, they can save families on funeral costs. Interest in these pared-down, eco-friendly options has grown as people look for ways to cut their carbon footprint. For example, nearly 54% of Americans are reportedly considering a green burial, and 72% of cemeteries are reporting an increased demand, according to a survey released earlier this year by the US National Funeral Directors Association.

 

Pre-2018

 

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