Between Life and Death

Listen 48:57
Three angel statues seen at Laurel Hill Cemetery in Philadelphia, Pa. (Image courtesy of Friends of Laurel Hill Cemetery)

Three angel statues seen at Laurel Hill Cemetery in Philadelphia, Pa. (Image courtesy of Friends of Laurel Hill Cemetery)

Often we think of life and death as opposite sides of a coin — categories as final as they are discrete. But in an age when machines can keep hearts pumping and lungs breathing, the line between life and death can sometimes start to blur. Modern medicine pushes us to think differently, ask if perhaps life and death are instead two points on a spectrum of existence. In this episode, The Pulse explores the space between those points. How do we define life and death — medically and culturally? We hear about a court case challenging the legal definition of death; the evolving debate over end-of-life care; and what scientists are saying about near-death experiences.

Also heard on this week’s episode:

  • In 2017, the family of 27-year-old Taquisha McKitty sued to keep her on life support, after doctors declared her brain dead. The question for the court was — was she actually dead?
  • A look into the study of near-death experiences, and what those moments in the the runup to death are really like — and why.
  • Working with the biotech company Ginkgo Bioworks, artist Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg is using genetic samples to recreate the scents of extinct flowers.
  • KCRW’s Avishay Artsy reports on how shared ideas about the afterlife transcend not only time, but also religion and culture.

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