Image: Beach at Llandudno, courtesy of Lancin Auriane / FreeImages.com

Deaths in England & Wales at a 12-year high

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UK – PHE says less effective flu vaccine may have contributed to largest percentage rise in deaths since 1968.

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How to plan for a good death

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UK – Sheila Kitzinger, the natural childbirth activist who died in April, pioneered the idea of birth plans. Her daughters, Celia and Jenny, describe how their mother made a death plan – so she could die at home according to 

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Rolling green hills

Death is a constant companion through life

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IRELAND – A bitter day, as a white coffin is carried along a West Cork hillside. Afterwards, red-eyed relatives drink whiskey at the graveside but tradition grants no shelter from cold or loss. At dusk, a motorboat bobs on a river as two strangers

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Bernadette Forde

A good death is important to everyone involved

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IRELAND – We tend to judge things by their endings. You can have a bad day, but if it ends well, you go to sleep happy. In fact it’s scientifically proven, in studies about pain, that people’s memories of things and the taste an experience leaves

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Military Graveyard, photo by Pete Bobb

Are you concerned with your quality of death?

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USA – At the end, they both required antipsychotics. Each had become unrecognizable to their families. On the day that Sandy Bem, a Cornell psychology professor, 65, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, she decided that

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Clock

Few Britons discuss dying or make forward plans

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UK – In a life of inevitabilities it is the most obviously inescapable fate of all, yet remarkably few Britons have discussed their death and its aftermath, according to a survey, with little more than a third having made a will. While more than 30% of people

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Joanne Mullarkey of the University of Bradford's ethical tissue bank.

‘Death cafes’ break taboo of talking about dying

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UK – A series of “death cafes,” designed to break taboos and get people talking about dying, will be held at the University of Bradford next week. Sessions on how to plan your own funeral, cope with the death of a loved one and faith and death

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Melanie Chaite attending the Art of Dying Conference

‘The Art of Dying’ Explores Approaches to Dying

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NY – Melanie Chaite has had many brushes with death. In 21 years of living with lymphangiomatosis, a rare cancer-like progressive lymphatic disorder that she’s had since birth, bouts of severe pneumonia have left her in intensive care. 

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US Army, photo Flickr

Death and Dying, Lost in Translation

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CA – Language barriers top the list of challenges doctors face with end-of-life conversations with patients from different ethnic backgrounds. It’s never easy for doctors to talk to their patients about death, but it’s especially hard when they don’t

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Holding hands

Today Let’s Talk About How You Want to Die

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USA – It’s National Healthcare Decisions Day. Are Americans ready to discuss end-of-life care? Every day in hospitals around the US, doctors, families, and patients make difficult decisions about what to do as a patient’s odds of recovering
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George Clooney in Gravity, photo copyright Warner Bros. Pictures

Death in space: The ethics of astronauts’ bodies

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US – It’s raining in Washington on July 24, 1969. The weather seems appropriate, given the tragic events that have just transpired that evening. Richard Nixon stands before a tense press corps gathered at the White House, and a silence envelops the room.

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Becky Palmer who passed away at the age of 19

How do we protect our digital legacy after death?

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UK – In the old days we stored our treasured memories in photo albums and paper diaries. Physical things which could be passed on in a will. But now, in our online lives our memories – our thoughts, feelings and images – are scattered to

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Robin Williams restricted use of his image after death

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US – According to a review of the Robin Williams Trust, Williams bequeathed rights to his name, signature, photograph and likeness to the Windfall Foundation, a charitable organization set up by Williams’ legal reps at the law firm of Manatt, Phelps.

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Oscar, the therapy cat that comforts dying patients at Steere House Nursing Home, Rhode Island

Oscar the cat comforts terminally ill patients

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USA – Ten-year-old Oscar has been comforting patients in their dying days at Steere House Nursing centre since he was a kitten. Staff and doctors at the Rhode Island centre are baffled by Oscar’s natural ability to seek out the dying and

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Clive James: ‘I’ve got a lot done since my death’

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Two years after reports suggesting his imminent death, Clive James still has plenty of life left in him. Ahead of a new collection of poetry next month, the polymath and former Observer TV critic discusses the poems written to his wife, his place in history and ‘dying by inches’

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Natural world & Native American Death Rituals

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US – Native American traditions and rituals may differ from tribe to tribe, but commonalities exist in Native American death rituals. Modern day Native Americans may incorporate ancient death rituals, handed down from their ancestors, in a modern funeral service.

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Estate planning: 16 things to do before you die

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USA – Not only is it important that you implement your plan and make sure others know about it and understand your wishes – as Benjamin Franklin’s famous quote goes, “by failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail”. If you’ve procrastinated on your estate planning, please read this.

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Bayview Cemetery, New Jersey, photo by Neil Barris. The Jersey Journal.

If you’re going to die, don’t do it here in New Jersey

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NJ – ‘If you’re going to die, don’t do it here.’ That’s advice a financial planner might give his New Jersey client today, not protecting the rug in his office, but the size of the estate to be passed along to heirs.  No other state levies taxes as high as New Jersey’s 

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Holding hands

France passes ‘deep sleep’ bill for end of life

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FRANCE – France’s lower house of parliament passed a bill on Tuesday allowing patients near the end of their lives to stop medical treatment and request deep sedation until they die, a move that critics say is effectively a form of euthanasia.

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Lisa Bonchek Adams shared her journey through breast cancer as she faced death

By sharing death on web, dying may not feel so alone

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USA – When terminal illness is chronicled for all the world to witness, the end of life takes on new meaning. Lisa Bonchek Adams is not a household name, but she may well be remembered for changing how we understand death and dying.

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Supporting an introvert through grief

A very public grief: how to support an introvert

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USA – So imagine how I feel when days after my mother dies I find myself staring down an endless line of black dresses and dark suits; a veritable who’s who of my family’s past, all waiting to do the awkward hug-or-no-hug tango.

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Garden entrance, photo by Julien Sister

Will human composting change death in the city?

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USA – What we do with our dead can seem bizarre to outsiders. In a Tibetan tradition called sky burial, the deceased are cut into small pieces by a man known as therogyapa, or “breaker of bodies,” and laid atop mountains to be picked apart by vultures. 

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Physalis

We’ll all die one day. Time we got used to the idea?

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UK – Instead of trying to outwit mortal disease, we should be learning to face our fate with courage. I’m writing this after hearing an apparently innocuous and encouraging snippet of news – that a new lung cancer treatment is capable of giving 

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Brittany Maynard

NY to Introduce Death with Dignity Bill

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USA – New York state lawmakers have introduced a “death with dignity” bill that would make the state the sixth in the U.S. to allow terminally ill adults to end their own lives with doctor-prescribed medicine. “The option to end one’s 

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Stethoscope

Two words most doctors avoid saying: You’re dying

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LA – There is one word most doctors hate to say: Dying. Many of them will go to great lengths — even subterfuge — to avoid it. Sure, nobody likes to deliver bad news. But shouldn’t physicians have mastered that? In a recent study 

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Photo by Family Funeral Cremation.

A Funeral Costs How Much? Ways to avoid overpaying

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USA – I’ve seen it too many times to count. My husband has been a funeral director for most of his adult life, and I worked alongside him for almost seven years. And the story, while always tragic and heartbreaking in its own way, is almost always the same.

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Penguins

Tips from widows – a guide to getting through grief

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UK – Jan Robinson collected the advice from a network of widows after her husband died suddenly. The result is a funny, comforting and therapeutic handbook for bereavement. Four years ago, Jan Robinson’s husband died suddenly of a heart attack, making her an instant widow.

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Euro coins

What happens your loved ones after your death?

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IRELAND – What protection does your family need in the event of your illness or death? If you have been following this series you will have already taken charge of your savings and considered your plans for retirement. Now it’s time to ensure your family is adequately protected.

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Tami Forero of Forte Events. Photo by Mark Reis, The Gazette

More families celebrate life with personalized services

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CO – Ruth Solazzi was born June 15, 1920. She was a dedicated teacher and opera singer who earned a master’s degree in music in the early 1940s, at a time when only about 6 percent of females pursued higher education. She raised four children, was grandmother to nine

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Man with hat

‘Death test’ could predict chance of dying

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A test to determine if elderly patients will die within 30 days of being admitted to hospital has been developed by doctors to give them the chance to go home or say goodbye to loved ones. Experts say this will prevent futile and expensive medical treatments which prolong suffering.

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Graveyard in Kyoto, Japan

What happens when all our cemeteries are full?

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UK – The business of death has become highly lucrative as the cost of dying rises in cities across the world. So what place is there for tomorrow’s dead – and does new technology offer a better solution? Lack of space and soaring costs are familiar problems for anyone who lives in a city.

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Brittany Maynard

Death with dignity movement is alive and well

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CA –  Palm Springs residents Bill Bentinck and his wife, Lynda, were not afraid of having the big talk no one really wants to have. “We both told each other that we didn’t want to live through a painful dying process,” Bentinck said, “and when the time comes we’ll just do it and get it over with. No fear.”

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Photo by Toru Hanai, Reuters

High-tech Japanese funeral industry booms

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AUSTRALIA – Japan has the oldest population in the world and in the next 50 years it is set to shrink by 40 million, leading to its end-of-life industry booming. Almost all Japanese people get cremated and have their ashes put into family crypts in conventional looking cemeteries.

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Holding hands

How hospices can save hospitals

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UK – Today the health select committee begins taking evidence for a new inquiry into end-of-life care. This comes after considerable public concern about the quality of care that people receive as they die, and six months after the controversial “Liverpool Care Pathway”

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Anne Rice, photo by Becket M. Ghioto

Living Longer, Dying Differently

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WA – If the prevalence and commonality of death has had any positive side effect on Louisiana—which has one of the lowest life expectancies in the U.S.—it’s that residents have attuned themselves to its context. “Early on, I got some sense of history and how ages compare, and how 

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Refusal to talk about death hurts the elderly

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CA – For some reason, there is a running joke among my immediate family about how my parents will die. Specifically, my brother and I will come home for Thanksgiving one year and find them decomposing on the couch. Yes, this is a bizarre thing to crack jokes about.

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Dr Angelo Volandes

Prescribing the end-of-life conversation

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MA – Is saving the life of a terminal patient always the best medicine? Like most doctors, I was a young resident, fresh out of medical school, when I had my first experience with the American way of mistreating the dying. Taras Skripchenko was a frail, bed-bound 78-year-old man with inoperable

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Swans

Animals grieve just as people do

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UK – When a young swan was trapped in a canal lock in Leicester last week, its parents seemed devastated. The adult swans stayed close by for two days, visibly distressed as they tried to coax the cygnet out. An onlooker said: “I’m a parent myself and I know how anxious they must 

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Yoga class at localfitness.com.au

Yoga: A Treatment for Grief?

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USA – Grief has traditionally been thought of as a psychological experience, but mental health experts are beginning to realize it involves a complex relationship between body and mind. Abby Saloma was physically and mentally crushed from caring for her mother, who was dying

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Facebook logo

Dying in the age of Facebook

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IL – Social media, especially Facebook, profoundly has changed the way we announce death and/or its imminence, the way we find out about loss, the way we mourn, the language we use to comfort the grieving and the status of those who do the comforting.

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Camera

Funerals to be live streamed online

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UK – Undertakers move into digital age. More funeral homes are offering streaming services to bereaved families. Sharing funerals online allows far-flung mourners to take part, say experts. Some crematoria will upload services to websites to be viewed for 30 days.

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Shared death experience, photo CNN

‘shared-death experiences’, real or a mirage?

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The man’s name was Ron, and he was a former Merchant Marine who was afflicted with stomach cancer. Peters says he would spend up to three hours a day at Ron’s bedside, talking to and reading adventure stories to him because few family or friends visited.

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Photo by Derrick Tyson, Flickr

Death on the net: the rise of livestreaming funerals

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USA – Usually at 11am, I’d be stepping out of my office for an early lunch, but not today. Today, I find myself leaning into my computer screen in the most isolated corner of The Atlantic‘s kitchen, hoping that no one stumbles in as I try to watch a stranger’s funeral over the Internet.

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Federal Health Minister Rona Ambrose said in September that Canada has to do better when caring for people who are dying. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

Palliative care access need for all nearing end of life

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CANADA – Dramatic improvements are needed to provide quality palliative care for all patients facing the end of their lives, including boosting the number of health providers trained in specialized care of the dying, says an Ontario health advisory agency.

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Mortuary school, photo by Andrew Renneisen for BuzzFeed

Students Breathing New Life Into The Death Industry

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NY – The young, close-knit, predominantly female students in SUNY Canton’s mortuary school are fascinated with our most difficult, yet unavoidable, subject. But when it comes to changing attitudes about death, are educational programs like the one they’re in part of the problem?

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Dr Paul Marik

Are we prolonging life or prolonging death?

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VA – The doctor floated through the intensive care unit, white lab coat flapping, moving from room to room, scanning one chart and then another, often frowning. Unlike TV dramas, where the victims of car crashes and gun shots populate the ICU, this one at Sentara Norfolk General,

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Tripp Carter of Bradshaw Carter. Photo by Johnny Hanson.

Personalization in funerals takes off

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USA – Houston has a key role, with biggest company in the business in town. Tripp Carter meets with clients on West Alabama around a table in what looks like a formal dining room. The chairs are copies of those Napoleon had at Chateau de Malmaison, his palace outside Paris.

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Photo by Rebecca Katzman

A Lesson in Graveyard Soil Science

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NY – Here’s a universal truth: We all die. And here’s another universal truth (that any good farmer would certainly agree with): Soil is everything. This, perhaps, is why so many eco-conscious folks today are buying out plots at green cemeteries.

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CJ Twomey, photo by Hallie Twomey

Ashes scattered in more than a hundred countries

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ME – In November 2013, Hallie Twomey turned to social media to ask people across the world to scatter her son’s ashes. One year on CJ’s ashes have been taken to more than 100 countries and have even been sent into space. There are many photos on the Scattering CJ Facebook page.

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Stethoscope

How to Make Your Wishes for End-of-Life Care Clear

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USA – As acceptance of end-of-life planning grows in the US, new concerns are emerging about how well patients and their doctors understand the forms they are signing about the care they want in their final days. In September, the Institute of Medicine’s “Dying in America” report

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Writing a list

Including End-of-Life Talk In Your Holiday Plans

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USA – The holiday season has dawned. Family members far and wide are reconnecting for parties and cookies by the fire. Gifts will be exchanged. The old recipes will make their way to the table. There will even be a glass or two lifted, perhaps some glogg.

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Thanksgiving pumpkin

The U.S. Death Rate Spikes On Thanksgiving

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USA – Doctors have long known that the overall U.S. mortality rate annually spikes around Thanksgiving, and remains elevated through the winter. (According to the CDC, the nation’s death rate in December 2013 was about 5% higher than the death rate in November 2013.)

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Dandelion

Having a hard time finding a good place to die?

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The latest Consumer Reports takes on end-of-life care and recommends that families steer away from newer, for-profit hospices. The move is sure to rattle the hospice industry, much of which consists of, well, newer, for-profit outfits. Part of the “Business of Dying” series.

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Tokyo - Shukatsu Festa 2014

Death tourism is rising draw for Japan’s elderly

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JAPAN – Housewife Reiko Wachi, 65, who lives in Kawasaki, poses for pictures as a photographer encourages her, saying, “Good smile. Very nice.” The photo session last month was planned by a Tokyo-based travel company, Club Tourism International Inc., with the goal of having

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Atul Gawande

Stop trying to help everyone live longer

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Atul Gawande’s current best-seller, Being Mortal, has touched a nerve regarding our medical system’s very poor handling of aging, life-altering illnesses, hospice, and palliative care. I caught up with Gawande after he delivered a public lecture on his book.

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Janice and Darlene Holan

Quality of U.S. hospices varies, patients left in dark

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USA – More than a million times a year, a terminally ill patient in the United States is enrolled in hospice care. Each time, the family confronts a decision that, while critical, often must be made almost blindly: Which hospice to hire? Part of the “Business of Dying” series.

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Ezekiel J Emanuel, photo by Jake Chessum

Ezekiel J. Emanuel: Why I Hope to Die at Seventy-Five

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Seventy-five. That’s how long I want to live: 75 years. This preference drives my daughters and my brothers crazy. My loving friends think I am crazy. They think that I can’t mean what I say; that I haven’t thought clearly about this, because there is so much in the world to see and do.

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Monty Python's Dead Parrot sketch

A thousand words for death

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UK – How would you like to die, linguistically? When the lexicographers were compiling their citations for the Oxford English Dictionary, they came across this remarkable one, in a US graveyard: Caroline, wife of EJ Langston, born on March 23 1833. Passed out Dec 18 1867.

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Crowdfunding Funeral Costs For A Loved One

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USA – When someone dies, it’s common to send flowers or make a charitable donation in his or her honor. But with costs often exceeding $7,000 a growing number of mourners are turning to crowdfunding sites specially designed to help cover the deceased’s funeral expenses.

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Lauren Bacall in 1989

What does mourning on Twitter mean?

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IL – “About seven years ago, Lauren Bacall showed up at my place for a party,” the Pulitzer Prize-winning writer John Patrick Shanley tweeted Wednesday morning. “It was like having a yacht show up in your bathtub.” Shanley’s anecdote was wry but affectionate.

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Couple looking at river

Census Says More Deaths, Fewer Births in U.S. in 2013

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USA – Thanks to younger Americans delaying having children and an exceptionally large group of Americans reaching mortality, the gap between births and deaths in the U.S. is the smallest it’s been in nearly four decades, according to data released Thursday by the U.S. Census.

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Chalkmark

Why Students Are Dying to Get Into ‘Death Classes’

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NJ – At Kean University, students are dying (as it were) to get into Norma Bowe’s class “Death in Perspective,” which has sometimes carried a three-year waiting list. On one field trip to a local coroner’s office, Dr. Bowe’s students were shown three naked cadavers on metal tables.

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Holding hands

Loneliness may increase risk of early death

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USA – The impact of loneliness on early death is almost as strong as the impact of being poor, which increased the chances of dying early by 19%, research has found. People who feel consistently lonely have a 14% higher risk of premature death than those who don’t, a new study shows.

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Social gathering and sharing a meal during Russian Easter honoring the dead, Spring Valley, New Jersey, 1997

Looking for ‘the poetry of death and dying in America’

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USA – Between 1996 and 1998, Bastienne Schmidt and her husband, Philippe Cheng, traveled throughout the USA photographing the services and ceremonies Americans use for the dead, hoping to “show some of the poetry of death and dying in America.”

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Theresa and Raphael

Digital Stories Help Dying Patients Communicate

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TN – Before she died, Theresa and Raphael’s mother created a video message to comfort her children, remind them of her everlasting love, and assure them that everything is as it should be. It is one of four digital stories created as a UT College of Nursing pilot research project.

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Beech trees

Is a woodland funeral the best way to go?

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UK – I’ve been to a number of woodland funerals and am considering one myself. But are they really the best option? Going green allows an empowered response to death. The Natural Death Handbook is full of ideas of how to think outside the box

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Why are high school football players dying?

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JAMESTOWN, NY — There have been 13 kids in the past two years whose deaths are directly related to high school . And yet there have been no fatalities at other levels. Experts point to several reasons. The death certificate of Damon Janes sketches a terrible story.

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Chris Picco and newborn son Lennon

Father sings to dying son following wife’s death

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USA – A video of a father singing The Beatles’ Blackbird to his dying newborn son has moved millions since going viral. Chris Picco, lost his 30-year-old wife Ashley Picco on Nov. 8 after an emergency C-section to save their unborn son Lennon who passed away a few days later.

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Boy with laptop

Youths are using Facebook to mourn loved one

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IRELAND – The break in traditional  habits, where young people grieve online rather than at the graveside, is a phenomenon that can lead to trauma for the mourner if the posthumous digital profile is taken down, according to Dr Elaine Kasket.

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Paradise Funeral Chapel, Saginaw, Michigan

Funeral home offers drive-thru viewing

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SAGINAW, MI – A funeral home has added an unusual new convenience for mourners — a drive-thru viewing window. Paradise Funeral Chapel has installed a window that displays a body set up in a special area inside the building with a raised and tilted platform for the casket.

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