Natural death

Manfred Oehmichen*, Christoph Meissner

*Corresponding author for this work
8 Citations (Scopus)


Background: The increasing age of every human being is the beginning of the end of life, an obviously natural process, but any attempt to define the term 'natural death' soon encounters difficulties in defining what is meant by 'natural'. In the industrialized countries of the West, for example 'natural death' is thought of as the opposite of non-natural types of death such as accidental death, suicide, and homicide. Objective: The aim of our present survey is to discuss the meaning of the term 'natural death' under a clinical, a forensic and a scientific point of view with regard to recent developments especially in molecular biology. Conclusion: If there are 'external' physical influences, a medical-technical manipulation, a therapeutic or molecular biological intervention cannot be definitely ruled out as the cause of death, then use of the term 'natural death' in general is open to question. It will only remain meaningful if it can be applied with a specific meaning in definite practical situations. Current research and medical technology, however, do not allow use of the term 'natural death' in its conventional sense: it can thus be stricken from the medical vocabulary. Copyright (C) 2000 S. Karger AG, Basel.

Original languageEnglish
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)105-110
Number of pages6
Publication statusPublished - 01.01.2000


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