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January 21, 1974

The Interpretation of Death

Author Affiliations

Dartmouth Medical School Hanover, NH

JAMA. 1974;227(3):330. doi:10.1001/jama.1974.03230160058032

This article is only available in the PDF format. Download the PDF to view the article, as well as its associated figures and tables.


The last two decades have brought an unprecedented upsurge of interest in death and dying. The focus on death as an object of systematic study is one of the most remarkable developments in contemporary social history. A new branch of science, thanatology, has emerged to organize accruing observations about man's attitudes toward death and the various modes of dying. Hundreds of journal articles and books reflect this new trend. As the volume of relevant literature grows, we can afford to be more discriminating in evaluating new publications. A new book on this subject should provide novel observations or theoretical formulations, or guidelines for clinical management of the dying and bereaved.

The book under review offers nothing new. It is a compilation of previously published articles and book excerpts. There are 14 chapters in the section on "Death" and 7 in that on "Mourning." The selection is heavily biased in favor