• Summary
  • Contents
  • Subject index

Dying is a social as well as physiological phenomenon. Each society characterizes and, consequently, treats death and dying in its own individual ways—ways that differ markedly. These particular patterns of death and dying engender modal cultural responses, and such institutionalized behavior has familiar, economical, educational, religious, and political implications. The Handbook of Death and Dying takes stock of the vast literature in the field.

The Autopsy
The autopsy

Pathologists are ghouls, and autopsies are madness.

The termautopsy is self-explanatory (auto = self andopsis = to see), literally “to see for oneself,” and currently is used synonymously withpostmortem (after death) andnecropsy (to look at the dead) (Hill and Anderson 1988:60). In modern usage, laity and medical professionals alike often misunderstand “the autopsy.” This is a direct consequence of the evolution of the physical process of, and the persons involved in, the examination of deceased human remains over the millennia. The medical practice of the autopsy has developed over time to the present state where physicians specializing in the medical field ofpathology study the anatomy and diseases of the dead with the goal of determining how and why someone died.

Pathology

Several different definitions could ...

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