How do you know if someone is dead?
falling leaves symbolizing death

[Editor’s note] While it seems a little inappropriate to share, this article raises some good points. Many people think of death as black and white — you’re alive or you’re not — those of us who’ve been around death know it’s not quite so simple. 

Sometimes the dying process can be a difficult and lengthy one. Just how do you determine when someone is no longer alive?


Before a body slides into a morgue or is lowered into a grave, how can we know if someone is really dead? As medical science advances, the guidelines to determine death have changed, too. Miracle Max from “The Princess Bride” once assured us that “there’s a big difference between mostly dead and all dead.” It was…

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  1. We’ve had a number of animals and family members pass on us. My mother was the last human for us, back in 2013. My morning was looking at her body in disbelief along with a huge relief she was no longer suffering. I struggled to take off her rosary and wedding ring. Yes, not a fun event at all. I called the hospice support team, and they came in. They called in a doctor to verify and set up body pick up. By the end of 3pm, mom had passed away 12 hrs prior, her remains, the equipment, everything, was gone. We were fortunate the nurses we had were most informative in letting us know how her COPD was shutting down her body from the toes up. We were not kept in any kind of disillusionment during her final three weeks, and they were kind about it. Well, I feel they were. Dad has dementia, and seeing how she passed really helped him accept it. Not all deaths come this way, true. Still, as morbid as it sounds, you need to be familiar with it, and somehow, come to terms with how we are all mortal.

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