Thursday, May 15, 2008

Death, and How to Diagnose It

In "Happy Effects", one of the stories in DOCTOR OLAF VAN SCHULER'S BRAIN, set in the 1700s, the protagonist waits beside the body of her slowly decaying son because she, like many people of her day confronted with bodies displaying similar symptoms, did not believe that he was truly dead. Rather than risk burying him alive, she waited several increasingly odor-filled days to ensure that he was truly deceased.

Fortunately, today, we know when someone is dead and safe to bury. Or do we?

The Fortean Times links to a recent story about a Wisconsin family of three who lived with the decaying body of a 90-year-old woman for several months because their "bishop" claimed that grandma would come to life, provided that her family prayed hard enough. The woman had apparently passed away while relieving herself on the home's one toilet, which led the family to use "makeshift" toilet facilities for the months that passed between the expiration and the arrival of the local Deputy. For more on the story, see the Fox website.

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