Coroner Investigative News December 07 Click Here

Coroner Newletter 1-2009 by James Kramer


Coroner Investigative News 9-09


Gary, Rich and Margie: Please send out to the team immediately.  I hope all three of you have the current team email addresses so we can make sure EVERYONE is getting these emails three times. One from each of you. We can't miss anyone again with training announcements or team business. Thanks. Lance



Team, I am very concerned about our personal information getting compromised.  Laura Corriveau sent us the email below concerning someone posing to be from FEMA and trying to get her personal information over the phone.


From now on, if anyone wants your information, and they call over the phone, you can refer them to me or Rich Lipich or do as Laura did, tell them to get lost.


We have nothing to do with FEMA as we are now under DHHS. So I can only assume that the incident below was a scammer trying to phish for your personal information so they can steal your identity. This is a very sensitive time since we are all doing paper work and emails for this transition. Any phone call to you at this time would almost sound official. So I feel we are very vulnerable with an official calling us to verify our information for the transition. Please be aware that there is the email for the background checks. This is legitimate, but if you have any questions at all as to the authenticity of any correspondence, please call and check into it. I would hate to have any of you get your identities stolen.


I alerted HQ and haven't heard back from them so I am sending this out to you without any verification from HQ. Nonetheless, they should not be doing this over the phone. We have the ERIC hotline, etc for this kind of verification (except for the background checks which will be an email). So, be very careful. Only give information to requests from the Command Staff and no one else and watch carefully on the background check emails.  




See below...................



I had a lady call my cell phone this weekend, said she was from FEMA and needed to confirm all my personal info.  I refused and told her I don't do that over the phone, to send me some official paperwork.  I told her the government has all my info and to use that to mail it to me.  I refused to give her my address.  Have not gotten anything yet.

 Laura Corriveau

From:  "Gary A Refsland" <>

CC:  "Lance Peterson " <>,"Lance Peterson " <>
Subject:  FW: Protection of Personally Identifiable Information (PII)
Date:  Thu, 23 Aug 2007 10:10:21 -0600
>Subject: Protection of Personally Identifiable Information (PII)
>Recently, data for nearly 600,000 households enrolled in TRICARE, a military
>health care system for active duty, retirees, and their family members, were
>potentially compromised by hackers attempting to access a government
>contractor's unprotected computer server. (See related article below)
>Protection of Personally Identifiable Information, or PII, is a top priority
>of the Federal government in general, and the Department of Health and Human
>Services, in particular. Earlier this year, ASAM participated in a
>Department-wide inventory of electronic data systems that process or store
>PII, to ensure appropriate security measures are applied. In addition,
>laptops used by ASAM personnel were updated with data encryption software.
>Knowing which ASAM systems contain PII and safeguarding data on mobile
>computers are important, but even more important is employee awareness and
>To learn more about IT security awareness and training, visit the HHS Office
>of the Chief Information Officer website at
><> .
>Some TRICARE Beneficiary Data Put At Risk
>By Fred W. Baker III
>American Forces Press Service
>WASHINGTON, July 20, 2007 - Data for nearly 600,000 households enrolled in
>TRICARE stored on a government-contractors unprotected computer server could
>have been exposed to hackers, defense officials announced today.
>We take this potential data compromise very seriously, said Army Maj. Gen.
>Elder Granger, deputy director, TRICARE Management Activity. The risk has
>been identified as low, but as a result of this unfortunate event, the
>Department of Defense is ensuring that steps are taken to keep affected
>beneficiaries informed.
>Beneficiaries names, addresses, Social Security Numbers, birth dates and
>some health information was stored on a computer server that was not using a
>firewall and did not have adequate password protection, TRICARE Management
>Activity officials said.
>Officials disabled the server in May, and it is no longer used. Forensic
>analysis of the server found no evidence that any beneficiary information
>was compromised, said Leslie Shaffer, assistant privacy officer at the
>Science Applications International Corp. maintained the data in Shalimar,
>Fla., and used it to process several military health care contracts,
>including those for customers in the Army, Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard.
>The server allowed for File Transfer Protocol transmissions of the data to
>its contract customers.
>This is the first time SAIC has violated Defense Department computer
>security procedures, Shaffer said.
>The TRICARE security breach was discovered after contract customers reported
>non-secure transmissions of data. SAIC is investigating and some employees
>have been placed on administrative leave pending the outcome, a company
>release stated.
>I can assure you that the individuals responsible for managing that server
>were not following standard operating procedures. DoD has very strict
>guidance on how we protect sensitive data, Shaffer said.
>Since May, SAIC has been processing the data, matching it with contact
>information so the beneficiaries could be notified.
>We're taking precautions to do everything we can within DoD, Health Affairs
>and the TRICARE Management Activity to ensure that our beneficiaries are
>notified, Shaffer said. We have been working closely with SAIC to ensure all
>our procedures are being followed.
>DoD and SAIC are mailing letters this week to beneficiaries whose data was
>put at risk. An incident response center has been setup to field customers'
>toll-free calls and information is available through a Website for those who
>suspect identity theft, or who want to protect themselves from identity
>Beneficiaries who were put at risk are also being offered a free, one-year
>subscription to an identity restoration service, she said.
>I think anyone who receives a letter should take the protections that are
>necessary to ensure their data has not been compromised, she said. Those
>numbers are available. I would recommend that the beneficiary use those
>The incident response center can be reached toll free within the United
>States at 1-888-862-2680, or collect at 1-515-365-3550 from outside the
>United States.








Coroner Investigative News

August 2007



“Childhood Death and Injuries”





                                                                                    James L. Kramer MPAS, PA-C

                                                                                    Pueblo County Coroner




Childhood Death and Injuries




Injury – A risk at any stage of Life, CDC Injury Fact Book 2006 states that “at every age, from our earliest days to our golden years, we are at risk for injury and that disability and death can result.   No age is a safe age when it comes to injuries and violence.”


The CDC tracks and monitors the injuries and violence that occur at different life stages and examines factors related to those life stages that increase or decrease a person’s risk for injury.


Identifying the risks and events will help create prevention programs to the needs, preferences, and life circumstances of particular age groups.


Infants and Toddlers ( Ages 0 – 3)




Children ( Ages 4 – 11)



Adolescents ( Ages 12 – 19)


12 % reported drink and driving and 30% reported riding with a drinking driver in     the month preceding the survey




Pueblo, Colorado Childhood Deaths Investigated by the Coroner’s Office

January 1, 2002 – December 31, 2006

Ages 0 – 19



Pueblo, Colorado Annual Total Childhood Deaths 1/1/02 – 12/31/2006



Year                       Male                Female             Total


2002                      13                    5                      18

2003                      12                    11                    23

2004                      14                    7                      21

2005                      10                    5                      15

2006                      4                      3                      7



Pueblo, Colorado Childhood Death Monthly Occurrence


                                          2002    2003    2004    2005    2006   


January                               2          2          5          1          1

February                            2          2          2          1          1         

March                                3          1          2          1          1

April                                   1          2          2          2          0

May                                   1          4          1          4          0

June                                   3          1          2          3          1         

July                                    1          2          2          0          1

August                                1          2          2          0          0

September                          1          3          1          0          0

October                             0          1          0          0          1

November                          3          0          1          1          1         

December                          0          3          1          2          0


Total                                  18        23        21        15        7



Pueblo, Colorado Cause and Manner of Childhood Death

                                                      1/1/02  - 12/31/2006



2002    There were four homicides of children (0-19) mechanisms included suffocation, stab wound to the chest, gunshot wound to the chest and closed head trauma.  Three suicides by hanging, gunshot wound (2).  Accidental deaths  included aspiration, positional asphyxia, drowning, motor vehicle accidents.  Natural deaths were caused by congenital abnormalities, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome and seizure.



2003    Homicides (3) closed head trauma, Gunshot wounds,  Suicides (3) mechanisms included gunshot wounds, hanging, and gunshot to chest.  Several deaths associated with motor vehicle accidents,   Natural deaths occurred from Cerebral Palsy, Seizure, Myocarditis, Congenital Heart Disease, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome Prematurity,  and Influenza.


      2004  Homicides (3)  due to gunshot wounds.  Suicides (3)  Hanging and gunshot      

                wounds.   Multiple deaths from motor vehicle accidents and other accident

          deaths caused by chemical ingestion, positional asphyxia, intoxication,

          Natural deaths were caused by ischemic bowel, laryngospasm secondary to

          Anesthesia, and Diabetes


2005   Homicides and mechanism of gunshot injury.  Suicides by gunshot injuries,

           Asphyxia by ligature, Hanging.   Accidental deaths primarily motor vehicle

           Accidents, also falls, drowning.   Natural deaths due to congenital  problems.


2006   Homicide (1) Trauma, Suicide (1) Gunshot wound   Accident (4)

                 Motor Vehicle Injuries (3)  Medication Reaction (1)  Drug overdose (1)

                 and lung disease.





Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment

Colorado Violent Death Reporting System




                          Colorado 2006




Colorado Violent Death Reporting System




Fatal Injuries Among Children by Race and Ethnicity in the United States 1999 – 2002


Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report  5/18/2007 Vol 56 No SS-5



Injury Death Rates US 1999 – 2002


Infants less than 1 year              33.7/100,000

Ages 1-9                                              10.4/100,000

Ages 10 – 19                                       30.9/100,000

10-14                                                                                   10.2/100,000

15-19                                                                                   52.0/100,000



Mechanisms of Unintentional Injury Death


Less than 1 year                       Suffocation, Motor Vehicle Accidents, Drowning

·        Blacks highest from suffocation

·        American Indian/Alaskan Native highest from MVA

·        Hispanics fewer suffocations more MVA


Ages 1 – 9                               Motor Vehicle Accidents, Drowning, Fire/Burns

·        American Indian/Alaskan Native highest MVA

·        American Indian/Alaskan Native highest Drowning

·        Blacks highest from fire/burns

·        Hispanics comparable to whites


Ages 10 – 19                           Motor Vehicle Accidents, Drowning, Poisoning

·        American Indian/Alaskan Native highest MVA & Poisoning

·        Blacks highest in drowning

·        Hispanics less than whites in MVA and Poisoning

·        Hispanics greater than whites in drowning





National Youth Violence Prevention Resource Center



Firearms Injuries


The United States has the highest rate of youth firearm-related violence in the industrialized world.  During the 1980’s and 1990’s youth firearm-related violence increased dramatically seen in juvenile gun arrests, gun homicides by juveniles doubled and youth suicides with handguns increased dramatically.  In recent years we have seen a decrease in youth suicides involving firearms but much remains to be done.


Firearm Access


The Youth Handgun Safety Act of 1994 prohibits possession of handguns by anyone under the age of 18 and under the Gun Control Act of 1968 it is unlawful for federally licensed firearms dealers to sell handguns to persons under 21.   Access to firearms by youth does not seem to be deterred, in on survey of 7th and 10th graders in Milwaukee and Boston, 42 % reported that they could get a gun if they wanted one, and 28% reported having handled a gun without adult knowledge or supervision.


Acquiring Firearms


Survey of Juvenile Offenders in Detention Centers



Weapons in the Home





Source of Weapons in Self Inflicted and Unintentional Injuries




Source of Firearms Used by Students in School Associated Violent Deaths

United States 1992 – 1999


CDC Mortality and Morbidity Weekly Report March 7, 2003


During July 1, 1992 – June 30, 1999 a total of 323 school-associated violent death events occurred in the United States, these resulted in 358 deaths.  This was defined as a firearm-related homicide or suicide in which the homicide perpetrator or the suicide victim was an elementary or secondary school student and the fatal injury occurred during this time frame either 1) on the campus of a functioning public or private elementary or secondary school in the United States, 2) while the victim was on the way to or from regular sessions at such a school or 3) while the victim was attending or traveling to or from an official school-sponsored event.


The findings indicate that among incidents for which the data are available, the majority of the firearms used in these events were obtained from the perpetrator’s homes or from friends or relatives.   The safe storage of firearms is critically important and should be continued.







Review of Child Death


Pueblo Child Fatality Review Team



The devastating event of a child’s death effects the family, investigators, community and peers of the child.   The goal of prevention of child death due to preventable causes is a admirable goal.  


Children die from natural causes ( diseases) , accidents, homicides and suicides.    The objective of the Child Fatality Review Committee is to comprehensively review the circumstances and events surrounding the death, the investigation  of the death and systems involved with the child.


The team is composed of the Coroner (chairperson), and representatives from multiple agencies including: DA, Pueblo Police Dept, Pueblo County Sheriff, Department of Social Services, Pueblo Health Department, School District, Hospitals, Emergency Rooms,  Nursing staff,  Community member and pathologists, Pueblo Child Advocacy Center.


Deaths reviewed are all child deaths that come under the jurisdiction of the Coroner.  Deaths of children ages 0 -19 yrs are reviewed.   The team meets on a monthly basis at the Pueblo Child Advocacy Center.


The proactive objective is identification of preventable causes of death of children and to educate families and the public about preventable measures.


The Pueblo Child Fatality Team. founded by James Kramer MPAS, PA-C, Coroner  was the first local review team in Colorado.   It is patterned after the State Child Fatality Review Team.





Coroner Investigative News

CSI Effect

Real or Perceived  ?                                                                                                                                                                                       

James L. Kramer MPAS, PA-C                 


Pueblo County Coroner

January 2007



CSI Effect

Real or Perceived ?



The popularity of the “CSI” television series and the spin-offs from the original series has increased television viewership of these forensic shows.  They are collectively consistent in the top ten Nielsen ratings and are ahead of many other  popular television series.


The forensic information, techniques and “CSI” teams presented on these television series have “educated” society in many law enforcement crime fighting approaches and have had an influence on what we perceive as common place activities.


A concern that has developed is the “CSI Effect” which is defined as the influence that may cause jurors to judge facts through the vision of crime shows and reach conclusions that are not consistent with evidence and testimony.  It is also associated with perception and expectations.


The question remains: is the CSI Effect real or perceived?


Working Definitions


Crime:  an act committed or omitted in violation of the law


Scene:  the place in which any even occurs


Investigation:  a careful examination or inquiry


Entertain:  to hold the interest of and give pleasure to; divert, amuse


Fiction:  anything made up or imagined; something accepted as fact for convenience, although not necessarily true


Effect:  anything brought about by cause or agent; result


Real:  existing or happening as or in fact; actual, true; authentic; genuine; not pretended


Perceive: to grasp or take in mentally; to become aware of through the senses










Forensic Professions/CSI Teams


The CSI shows all have teams of 4-5 persons that do all of the work on every case, they respond to the scene, collect the evidence, return to the lab and do all of the technical analysis, complete the trace evidence testing, always obtain computer analysis and get positive “hits” on the computer, get toxicology results immediately and complete the autopsy.   It has even been shown that they have special skills in scuba diving.  They frequently do family and witness interviews and the perpetrators confess when confronted with the forensic evidence.    All of this in a one hour show with commercials.


The reality of forensic specialties is years of study, individual disciplines, slow meticulous work that can take hours,  days or weeks for results and the results do not always provide the final answer.  The forensic pathologist specializes in disease, trauma and human anatomy.   The toxicologist focuses on drugs, poisons, and side effects and complications of those substances.  Anthropology emphasizes the study of the skeletal remains for the purpose of identifying gender, age, ethnicity, trauma and disease.  A Odontologist ( forensic dentist) specializes in dentistry, identification based on dental aspects and bite mark analysis. 


Other forensic specialties include fingerprint analysts, firearms and ballistics, blood spatter analysis, computer crimes, DNA/Biology, jurisprudence, medicolegal investigation, psychiatry and many other specialized fields.


The multiple disciplines that are forensic specialtists clearly indicate that it takes more than 4-5 person team to have the skills necessary for a comprehensive investigation.


CSI Effect/Implications


According to the Yale Law Journal March 2006 “ the CSI effect is a term that legal authorities and the mass media have coined to describe a supposed influence that watching the television show CSI has on juror behavior.   Some have claimed that jurors who see the high quality forensic evidence presented on CSI raise their standards in real trials, in which actual evidence is typically more flawed and uncertain.   As a result, these CSI-affected jurors are alleged to acquit defendants more frequently.”


“While the CSI effect has been widely noted in the popular press, there is little objective evidence demonstrating that the effect exists.   As is often the case with legal issues, the pace of public discussion has outstripped the ability of scholars to research the issue.”


Perfection Personified


Law enforcement and forensic show abound on the network television channels.   Introduction to law enforcement and court processes began decades ago.  Remember Perry Mason, Peter Gun, and Dragnet.   Television brought us current with Law and Order, Hill Street Blues and other popular police series. The wonder of court room drama and theatrics was demonstrated by Perry Mason.   We were introduced into the world of forensic medicine with Quincy. 


The current popular viewing of CSI, CSI NY,  CSI Miami, Law and Order, Major Crimes, Numbers, and Without a Trace all lend themselves to the forensic fascination as well as the growing popularity of forensic programs at universities and colleges.


Max Houck, West Virginia University: “I joke that CSI is the perfect TV show, they dress like doctors, they carry badges and they’re cops, and they act like cowboys”





Anthony Amersterdam and Jerome Bruner wrote in their book Minding the Law “ that television might have an effect on courtrooms is not implausible.   Judges and lawyers must inevitably rely upon culturally shaped processes of categorizing, storytelling, and persuasion in going about their business”.


Preconceptions are a problem if jurors are unable to set them aside.  If jurors can clear their minds, then the biasing influences of watching CSI could be counteracted by a judge urging them to set aside any information they had learned from watching crime show television  according to Neil Vidmar, Law and Human Behavior 73, 75-82 (2002)


According to Commonwealth Attorney Jonathan Lynn: “ There is no question people bring into the courtroom their personal life experiences.  To the extent that they watch this show (CSI) their expectations are somewhat altered.”


Guilty and Not Guilty verdicts are not an equivalent of resolving uncertainty.   A guilty verdict identifies someone responsible for a crime and provides a sense of psychological completeness and closure.   A not-guilty verdict prevents an injustice to a potentially innocent person but does nothing to resolve the psychological desire to see justice done either for the victim or the population at large according to the Yale Law Journal.


The Yale Law Journal goes on to state that there is a fundamental human motivation to see justice done which is the “belief in a just world”.  This may motivate jurors to try to resolve cases.  Achieving conviction is psychologically satisfying because an acquittal leaves the crime unsolved.  There is a cognitive motivation to acquit the innocent, the emotional need to achieve justice for the victim is incomplete until someone is identified and punished for the crime.


Neil Vidmar writes in Retribution and Revenge (2001) that the desire for retribution following wrongdoing is the oldest form of justice and is central to society.  The two related concepts of retribution and revenge are arguably the oldest, most basic, and most pervasive justice reactions associated with human social life.







Understanding the Limits of Limiting Instructions by Joel Lieberman in Psychol.Pub.Policy 677, 684-85 (2000) indicates that studies by psychologist have repeatedly shown that admonitions to disregard inadmissible evidence are ineffective.  Damaging publicity was found to increase the perceived strength of the prosecution case and the likelihood of a guilty verdict.


The concern of bias is addressed in the article Authoritarianism, Pretrial Publicity and Awareness of Bias in Simulated Jurors by Sue Stanley.   “ Research shows that verdicts of jurors who claim to be unbiased during voir dire are still influenced by prior bias.  In fact, asking jurors about a particular view prior to trial is sometimes found to increase the influence of related pretrial publicity.


Placement of stories in news reports have the potential of influence by inference of importance based on placement of a story.   Headlines are potentially the most read portion of a news item.  One must ask if it is possible that photo’s, captions and camera angles have the potential to create a bias?


Juror Expectations and Influence


The question remains if popular television forensic programs lead jurors to have unreasonable expectations for the quality and quantity of physical evidence.


According to Simon Cole, Dept. of Criminology, University of California, Irvine: “That television might have an effect on courtrooms is not implausible….but to argue that CSI and similar shows are actually raising the number of acquittals is a staggering claim, and the remarkable thing is that, speaking forensically, there is not a shred of evidence to back it up.”


Pondering the CSI Effect


The  question posed by the District Attorney’s Office in Maricopa County (Phoenix) ask if the science used in fictional investigations have the potential to sway juries against the prosecution because the burden of proof now includes the requirement of a specific type of scientific examination or an exotic laboratory analysis?  “Some prosecutors believe that juries in the past were intimidated or bored by scientific evidence but now the opposite may be true. “  In the criminal justice system, defense attorneys have the duty to advocate for the defendant.  “ Will the influence of CSI shows allow defense attorneys to call the criminal justice process itself into question, and holding police and prosecutors to a different, and higher, television-driven standard?”


Television exposure to forensics and CSI has substantially grown as the number of CSI type programs have proliferated on the networks.   An estimated 30 million television viewers religiously tune into forensics-laden crime dramas like CSI.  “TV no longer simply reflects the world in which we live; it shapes it as well.”

Professor Taunya Lovell Banks, University of Maryland School of Law


The Nielsen Media Research Group top ten primetime broadcast television programs  reveal CSI type programs to be #1, 4, 6,7,9,10  ahead of Monday Night Football, Desperate Housewives, and Grey’s Anatomy.


CSI Images


Visual appeal and entertainment are a significant aspect to the television shows.   It is readily evident that the CSI team is always wearing the latest fashions, suits, heels, leather pants, low scooped tops, abdomen bearing mid riffs and fashion sun glasses.


Real life CSI teams instead wear BDU’s, protective outer wear such as tyvek suits, heavy boots and long rubber gloves.


Vans, police type cars and SUV’s are the most common mode of transportation and not the classic TV Hummer vehicles.


The laboratory and morgue with the TV CSI shows consistently is in a modern building with all of the latest forensic tools, machines, laser lights, imaging techniques and blue lighting.   Real life morgues are more often cramped, low budget, understaffed and have the traditional white fluorescent bulb lighting.


The CSI television shows are entertainment.   Thomas Mauriello, forensic scientist suggest that much of the forensic science depicted on CSI (40%) does not even exist and even when the techniques are real, the neatly perfect depictions of collecting, processing and analyzing evidence are not.


Media Influence



Dr. David Walsh, president of the National Institute on Media and the Family emphasizes that electronic media (TV, video games, movies and computers) can have profound effects on young children by the power of the media setting examples for children to follow.   “By the time a child is 18, he or she will have seen roughly 200,000 acts of violence on television.”  As electronic media has become more prevalent, it has developed the power to set cultural norms.


Exposure to visual media continues to influence society but it also provides a potential education for a select group.  Education of criminals is a potential spin off of the CSI forensic programs.  Detective Mick Kennedy, University of Western Sydney states that “ television and movies have always provided criminals with new ideas about how to escape the law.   As a society we should not under-estimate the intellectual capacity of the criminal community.   These shows play a part in planting ideas in the minds of criminals.


The absolute of television does not always exist.  The slam-dunk evidence and quick convictions have led juries to expect the same thing.   Real forensics is seldom as fast or as certain as TV .




The question remains does the CSI Effect exist and if so does it create an element of leniency?


We then must ask if there is a CSI Effect does it create defendant sympathy, does it change the threshold for convictions, is there a declining trust and confidence in legal authorities, how much influence does the media have on society and culture, does bias exist and critical thinking must distinguish between entertainment and reality.


Sherlock Holmes: “ There is nothing more deceptive than an obvious fact.”








James L. Kramer MPAS, PA-C

Pueblo County Coroner

215 W. 10th

Pueblo, CO 81003



Coroner Investigative News

April 2007





Life and Death


A Journey of Society and Culture












Life and Death

“A Journey of Society and Culture”




Death provides a cascade of emotions that human beings experience.  We travel a journey that incorporates fear and hope.   The concept of death has influenced or has been influenced by language, arts, religion and funerary rituals.


Death and the way a person arrives at death has become an attraction for political debate, news, television, movies and society as a whole.


The issues leading to death and the response to death generates many occupations, expenses, budget line items and social stigma.  We have had and continue to have marked political and religious debate over several ethical issues related to death: suicide, genocide, abortion, euthanasia.


Culture has taken on a goal of death prevention.   We express continued concern about the amount of violence and death that children are exposed to but the media continues to abound with varied images of death and murder.  Discussions of death remain a taboo or at least limited conversations.


We have become death accepting, death denying and death defying.   Have we become a culture of death?

Changes in social structure

The greatest effect may be seen in small societies where famine, disease or mass disaster could potentially lead to the death of the entire group. 


Death impacts our roles within a family and community.  It gives a historical linage to where we stand within the family and effects the roles that we fill ie. Matriarch, patriarch, child, sibling.   We then see as time and death take a toll that our role and position within the family changes. 


The twentieth century has seen a significant change in death statistics and causes of death.   The average life expectancy has continued to climb,  we no longer have the devastating death rates of infants and the elderly are living longer.   The change in life span also has a significant effect on the economic and social structure of society as well as creating more end of life issues.  


These are issues that have come about because of the advancement of public health, medical technology, better working conditions, better housing, and technological changes in society.   The availability of quality food and water as well as overall quality of life.


Death has changed from sudden death to a slow motion death over time.


Death Systems


Components of a death system include: people, places, times and objects and symbols.


Death is inevitable, everyone will at one time or another be involved with death: self or others.


The places that death occurs or a person is tended to at the time of death includes: hospitals, nursing homes, hospice centers, private residence, battle fields , morgues, funeral homes, and cemeteries or crematories.


Society, cultural groups and families remember the deceased at many specialized times that include cultural holidays, anniversary’s, holidays and religious holidays.


The time of our death results in the use of many types of objects and symbols.  Families may choose a special casket either wood or metal with possibly some type of symbolic emblem that reflects a special interest or involvement of the deceased.   It may have a religious symbol such as a cross.   The burial may include a flag.   All of these emblems and symbols are meant to represent the deceased, beliefs, involvements and things that were meaningful to them when they were alive.




Religion has been the social structure driving the rituals and social knowledge associated with death.   The message that is provided through religion is that life doesn’t conclude with death, but rather a person is resurrected, reincarnated or absorbed and moves on to an after-life. 


Each religious denomination has specific criteria that affect the belief system and values of the individual.  


Religion has helped shape attitudes toward fears of death, funeral practices and death related moral issues.


Pope John Paul II questioned society assuming a “culture of death” attitude and stated “shadows of death that are especially menacing at life’s earliest beginning and its natural end make up this “culture of death”.









Religious Wars


Time Magazine July 12, 1976 : “ The conflicts are, of course, more complicated than religious fanaticism; they have a great deal to do with economic discrimination, battles for political power, questions of deeply laminated social difference.   Nor do the wars involve religious doctrine – except in oblique, complex ways. “






Ethical Debates


Religious beliefs drive many of the ethical debates, most which center around the sanctity of life and include euthanasia, assisted suicide, abortion and capital punishment.


The discussion about the sanctity of life and the respect for life is driven by determination and termination.   The concern is also about the quality of life .   Who has the legal and moral right to make those decisions.   A classical example of this debate is Terri Schiavo.


Euthanasia and assisted suicide have been forefront in the news.   The concern about self determination, involvement of  others in our death and the legalities of action.   Dr. Jack Kevorkian has been the leading controversial figure associated with these issues.

The debate continues about the quality of life, sanctity of life and the legal implications.  The end of life decisions challenge us.   The impact of family, finances and the psychological long term effects are associated concerns.  Death with dignity is a concern.


Abortion continues to be a hot button topic that generates immediate responses that are at opposite ends of the spectrum.    The debate continues as to when does life begin, who has the right to take a life, what are the rights of the unborn and what are the rights of the mother.  The common ground of death of the infant continues to be debated.   Possibly the association of human DNA  will clarify the status of the unborn.   Medical technology has advanced the imaging of the unborn child and the number of abortions in America has decreased.


Capital punishment ( death penalty) is a death issue that generates visceral response and depends upon where and if it affects an individual or family.  The debate continues about punishment, recidivism,  and wrongful death.   The advance of DNA and ability to test in crimes that it wasn’t previously tested for has indeed found some that are wrongfully imprisoned for a crime they didn’t commit.   The Innocence Project has promoted the DNA testing and taken a stand against the death penalty.







Consistent ethics seem to be in conflict with all of the debate of the moral issues associated with death.   Society seems to have variable ethical beliefs depending on the individual topic whether it is abortion, assisted suicide, capital punishment.  We have as a consistent ethic inconsistent beliefs. 


The ethical issues have a significant social impact and the religious view points related to these issues bring into question our belief system as well as social justice.





Politics and Death


There are many political tentacles to death.   The easily visible is the association between death , wars, massacres and oppression.  


One of the obvious ramifications of military occupation is the death of the soldiers on both sides of the conflict.


Politics reaches further into the association with death when governments are evaluated for involvement with death statistics, life expectancy, public health and monitoring systems for disasters.


Legislative involvement with environmental controls, advertising and requirements associated with cigarette smoking and alcohol.


The government has become a monitoring vehicle for things that kill us and then it forms another agency to eliminate those same hazards.


Legislative control over observances such as historical holidays, monuments and national cemeteries plunges the government further into the issues of death or at least the creation of mechanisms that observe death.
























War, Death and Americans


Source:  American War Library


                                                American War Dead


Year                 Location                                   Killed                           Injured


1775-1783       Revolutionary War                      25,342                           8,445


1861-1865       Civil War – North                     363,020                       281,104


1861 – 1865    Civil War – South                     199,110                       137,102


1917-1918       World War I                            116,708                       204,002


1941                Pearl Harbor                                2,388


1941-1945       World War II                           408,306                       670,846


1945                Iwo Jima                                      6,891 (USMC)        18,070 (USA)

                                                                          19,788 (Japan)


1957-1975       Vietnam                                    58,219                        153,356


1990-1991       Persian Gulf                                    363                               357


2001                Afghanistan                                       89                                 33


2003 - ???        Iraq                                              3,000+                     25.000+

















Genocide in the 20th Century


Source:  The History Place


Genocide is a combination of words “genos” (race) (Greek) and the Latin word “cide” (killing). 


The United Nations defined genocide in 1948  to mean any  act committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial, or religious group including:

  1. killing members of the group
  2. causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group
  3. deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part
  4. imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group
  5. forcibly transferring children of the group to another group


Examples of Occurrences of Genocide



Year                               Location                                                       Number of Deaths


1915-1918                      Armenians in Turkey                                        1,500,000

1932-1933                      Stalin’s Forced Famine                                  7,000,000

1937-1938                      Rape of Nanking                                               300,000

1938-1945                      Nazi Holocaust                                               6,000,000

1975-1979                      Pol Pot in Cambodia                                       2,000,000

1994                               Rwanda                                                              800,000

1992-1995                      Bosnia-Herzegovina                                          200,000                                                                   

2003-2007 (ongoing)     Sudan:Dufar                                 (displaced) 2,500,000        

                                                                                             (deaths)     thousands







Occupations and Death


According to an average work day at least 153 workers lose their lives as a result of workplace injuries and illnesses.  Unionized workers sustain the majority of work-related injuries because they often work in the most hazardous of the work environments.   The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health showed 5,524 occupational fatalities in 2002


Labor Unions with the majority of members that died as a result of work related injuries include: Union Iron Workers, Masons, Commercial Workers, Industrial Workers of the World, Plumbers and Fitters Union, United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners, Welders and Bridge Workers.


Professions dealing with death


Law Enforcement, Physicians, Insurance, Banking, Financial Planners, Hospice, Cemeteries, Medical Examiners, Funeral Directors, Morticians, Nurses, Counselors, Lawyers, Pathologists, Crematory workers, Memorial Stone Company, Clergy, Social Workers, Human Resources, Retirement Officers, EMS, Emergency Response Teams, Fire Fighters, Florists, Journalists and multiple health care professions.


These professions cross into the world of the dead on a regular basis dealing with the deceased as well as the families of the deceased.


America’s “Fatal Attraction” to Death


A significant amount of the time news stories on television, radio and newspaper have a lead story that deals with the death of an individual or group.


The most visible of some of these in recent years include the death of Pope John Paul II,  President Regan, Terri Schiavo, Anna Nicole, President Ford and the ravages of war and genocide.  Is death a public or private event?


Reflection on some of the leading television stories recently and in the past include stories of crime, passion, death, tragedy and menacing.   A few of the titles include: CSI, Law and Order, Numbers, Soprano’s, Gunsmoke, MASH, Perry Mason, Quincy, and Autopsy.


The Big Screen draws people and millions of dollars into the theatre with movies and stories that tell a story that includes death such as: God Father, 300, Passion of the Christ, and Flags of Our Fathers.


Are we a culture of death and Fatal Attraction?



Cemeteries, Tombstones, and Obituaries


The role of a cemetery in society is more than a resting place for the deceased.  It creates a microcosm of society reflecting community beliefs and values.   It indicates many times what kind of society exists and in fact who the members of that society are.


Many cemeteries, particularly historic cemeteries, provide a history lesson of the region and of America.  


Cemeteries frequently will have areas or section that because of the community have developed sections based on religious affiliation or ethnic association.


Tombstones vary in size and may be associated with families, success, or beliefs.   Some have inscriptions with religious statements and military service.  


A current practice in cemeteries is to have all of the tombstones of uniform size and shape.         Does this practice create equality ?


The obituary announcement is a life summary and family statement.  The size and contents of the obituary may depend on family preference and cost. 


A unique development in recent years is the Roadside Memorial.   This marks the location of a death that occurred.   Some debate has developed if the roadside memorial is a hazard.    Although these markers have become more prevalent in recent years they are really a new take on the old practice of burying people at the death site as people moved across the land to settle America.


A discussion would not be complete if there wasn’t at least mention of Egyptian Pyramids and the significance of the building of monuments and tombs to provide a monument and place of preparation for the after life for the Egyptian elite.  Were the pyramids an early attempt at immortality?


Historically cemeteries have been the sights of many varied activities as well as the source of some health concerns.  The English Parliament thought that funeral and burial customs may have played a role in spreading the Black Plague.  It instituted a policy against large gatherings and mandated graves to be no less than six feet deep.


Cemeteries have ranged from family plots, military cemeteries, large garden cemeteries, inner city cemeteries to rural cemeteries.  Parks have become more cemetery like with large monuments and cemeteries more park like with paths and open space.










Funeral service is a history of mankind and the funeral customs are as old as civilization.


Care of the deceased is a society/cultural activity and studies of civilization have identified three commonalities relating to death and the handling of the deceased:


·        Some type of funeral rites, rituals, and ceremonies

·        A sacred place for the dead

·        Memorialization of the dead


Modern funeral customs are based on religion, honoring the dead and showing sympathy and consideration for the family.


Even in today’s society, as in historical civilizations death is approached from a standpoint of fear.



Personal Impacts.


Can death be considered good or bad ?   It has been indicated that a “Good Death”  involves the needs of the dying and a “Bad Death” is one that is unanticipated or premature.


Bereavement is a legitimate grief that reflects a status of diminished expectations toward one’s role.  Grief is the emotions triggered by the death of another, associated with sadness and possibly depression. 


Grief is one of the most profound of all human emotions.   General Social Survey’s have shown than 14 percent of Americans 18 and older ( about 36 million) have experienced the death of either  a parent, spouse, sibling or child each year.   These losses can disrupt life patters for up to three years.


The period of grief has shortened through the years.   In 1927 Emily post suggested that a widow’s formal grieving period was three years.  1950  the mourning period was six months and in 1972 Amy Vanderbilt advised the bereaved to “pursue or try to pursue, a usual social course within a week or so after a funeral.”


Our grief and response to the death of a loved one is many times based on the relationship we held with the deceased, whether it was a parent, spouse, child, sibling, grandparent or grandchild.





  1. The influence of death reaches all aspects of society.
  2. Death systems provide a veil of order and meaning to society.
  3. Death influences religion, funerary rituals, occupations, life.
  4. Religion has been the social structure driving the rituals and knowledge of death.
  5. Many of the current ethical debates of society center around death: Sanctity of Life, Euthanasia, Assisted Suicide, Abortion and Capital Punishment.
  6. The politics of death draws a connection between wars, life expectancy, budgets and public health.
  7. Cultural practices surrounding death reflect life as seen via, cemeteries, tombstones, obituaries and roadside memorials.
  8. The impact of death deals with personal relationships with the deceased
  9. Grief and bereavement are the result of the emotions triggered by the death of another.






  1. American War Library
  2. History of Funeral Customs
  3. Michael Kearl Sociology of Death
  4. Pope John Paul II
  5. National Public Radio: Exploring Death in America
  6. Time Magazine July 12, 1976
  7. United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
  8. United States Bureau of Labor Statistics
  9. United Nations






Do you really know how to forward e-mails?

Do you really know how to forward e-mails?  50% of us do; 50% DO NOT.  Do you wonder why you get viruses or junk mail?  Do you hate it?  Every time you forward an e-mail there is information left over from the people who got the message before you, namely their e-mail addresses & names.  As the messages get forwarded along, the list of addresses builds, and builds, and builds, and all it takes is for some poor sap to get a virus, and his or her computer can send that virus to every e-mail address that has come across his computer.  Or, someone can take all of those addresses and sell them or send junk mail to them in the hopes that you will go to the site and he will make five cents for each hit.  That's right, all of that inconvenience over a nickel!  How do you stop it?  Well, there are several easy steps:
(1) When you forward an e-mail, DELETE all of the other addresses that appear in the body of the message (at the top). That's right, DELETE them. Highlight them and delete them, backspace them, cut them, whatever it is you know how to do. It only takes a second. You MUST click the "Forward" button first and then you will have full editing capabilities against the body and headers of the message. If you don't click on "Forward" first, you won't be able to edit the message at all.
(2) Whenever you send an e-mail to more than one person, do NOT use the "To:" or "Cc:" fields for adding e-mail addresses. Always use the "Bcc:"  (blind carbon copy) field for listing the e-mail addresses. This way the people you send to will only see their own e-mail address.  If you don't see your "Bcc:" option, click on where it says "To:" and your address list will appear. Highlight the address and choose "Bcc:" and that's it, it's that easy.  When you send to "Bcc:", your message will automatically say "Undisclosed Recipients" in the "To:" field of the people who receive it. If that phrase does not appear, type your own email address in the "To:" field, but put everyone else's in the "Bcc:" field.
(3) Remove any "Fw:" in the subject line.  You can re-name the subject if you wish or even fix spelling.
(4) ALWAYS hit your Forward button from the actual e-mail you are reading. Ever get those e-mails that you have to open 10 times to read the one page with the information on it?  By Forwarding from the actual page you wish someone to view, you prevent them from having to open many e-mails just to see what you sent. (AMEN!) If you can't forward from that page, "Copy" the info and then open a new email blank page and "Paste".
(5) Have you ever gotten an email that is a petition? It states a position and asks you to add your name and address and to forward it to 10 or 15 people or your entire address book.  The email can be forwarded on and on and can collect thousands of names and email addresses.  A FACT:  The completed petition is actually worth a couple of bucks to a professional spammer because of the wealth of valid names and email addresses contained therein.  If you want to support the petition, send it as your own personal letter to the intended recipient. Your position may carry more weight as a personal letter than a laundry list of names and email address on a petition.  (Actually, if you think about it, who is supposed to send the petition in to whatever cause it supports?  And don't believe the ones that say that the email is being traced, it just ain't so!)
One of the main ones I hate is the ones that say that something like, -Send this email to 10 people and you'll see something great run across your screen.  Or sometimes they just tease you by saying something really cute will happen. IT AIN'T GONNA HAPPEN!!!!!  (Trust me, I'm still seeing some of the same ones that I waited on 10 years ago!)  I don't let the bad luck ones scare me either, they get trashed.  (Could be why I haven't won the lottery.)  Before you forward an Amber Alert, or a Virus Alert, or some of the other ones floating around nowadays, check them out before you forward them.  Most of them are junk mail that have been circling the net for YEARS!  Just about everything you receive in an email that is in question can be checked out at Snopes or Break The Chain.  Just go to or  It is really easy to find out if it is real or not.  If it is not, please don't pass it on.
So please, in the future, let's stop the junk mail and the viruses.