Death, a term more easily understood than defined. Although it may generally be said, that death consists in the separation of the soul from the body, yet this explanation is so far imperfect, as we possess but a distant idea of the con-nexion subsisting between the mind and the animal frame : nor does the definition here stated express any more than the effect, but leaves us completely ignorant of the cause of that great event, or the physical process by which dissolution is accomplished.
In order to prepare the reader for more clearly understanding the symptoms of actual dissolution, we shall briefly relate the gradual decay preceding this catastrophe.
The. human body is,' from its birth, liable to continual changes, in consequence of the different vital, animal and other functions, it performs : till it attains a certain age, let us suppose that of thirty-five years, in a state of perfect health. these changes tend to improve its solidity, strength, and sprightli-ness, without detracting from its organic vigour. After that period, which we may venture to call the meridian of' life, it gradually declines. The smallest fibres become rigid ; the minute capillary vessels corrugate, admit no fluids to pass through them, and at length change into fibres ; the larger blood-vessels grow hard and narrow; in short, all the outlets of the body become contracted, and in a manner close: whence the dry, shrivelled, and inflexible state of old age. Thus, the interior organs every day become more inert in performing their functions, the humours stagnate, thicken, and at length are partly converted into solids: hence the skull and other bones are much thicker in the aged than in other adults. Digestion is weakened; assimilation is prevented ; and all the animal function are gradually impaired: the skin, that wonderful contrivance in the animal economy, ceases to perform the important offices, of absorption and perspiration - the myriads of pores are closed - the blood-vessels no longer impel the vital fluid, and are become inert as the time-piece, the spring of which has been ne-glected by the artist. At length, reduced to a state bordering on vegetable life, in the same ratio as plants are linked to minerals, the connection that hitherto subsisted between our mental and physical nature, is totally dissolved ; or, in other words, death is the necessary consequence.
Few persons, however, arrive at the stage of life we have just de-scribed : by far the greater proportion of human beings die in their infancy, or are cut off in the bloom of life, by a long and horrid brain of diseases. Besides, there are numberless accidents to which we are daily liable; nay, all the elements which surround us, may prove, according to the use we make of them, cither salutary or fatal. - In this place, therefore, we shall give a concise view of the most unerring signs of death, if taken collectively; and explain the treatment to be adopted in the different casualties, such as Drown-ing, etc. in the order of the alphabet.
Symptoms of Death : 1. Cessation of the pulse ; 2. Total suppression of breathing ; 3. Loss of animal heat ; 4, Rigidity of the body, and inflexibility of the limbs; 5. Relaxation of the lower jaw ; 6. Inability of the eye-balls to return to their sockets, when pressed by the finger ; 7. Dimness, faintness, and sinking of the cornea, or the uppermost horny coat of the eye 8. 8. Foam in the cavity of the mouth; 9. Blue spots of various sizes, and on different parts of the body ; 10. A cadaverous smell; and, 11. Insensibility to all extern nal stimulants.
All these symptoms, however, if individually considered, are far from being conclusive : they then only afford a certain criterion of death, when most or all those appearances concur at the same time, especially if the 6th, 7 th, and 10th of the signs be strongly marked.
Apparent Death, is that state in which life is suspended, either because the body is not susceptible of external stimuli, or the interior organs are in a state similar to that of palsy.
Dr. Struve, in his Practical Essay on the Art of recovering SuspendedAnimation,"lately trans-lated from the German (12mo. London, 1801, 3s. 6d.), exhibits the following view of all the
Symptoms of Life : A slight degree of warmth in the region of the heart, accompanied with contractions and dilatations ; a vibrating motion of the whole body, especially after being sprinkled with cold water; and a convulsive tension of some muscles.
Doubtful Signs : Rigidity of the limbs, gradual smoothness of the skin, warmth and redness in particular parts of the body, hiccough, contraction and hissing of the nostrils, a tremulous motion of the whole body, mucus issuing from the nose during the artificial inflation of the lungs, a slight convulsive motion of the mouth, and a firm compression of the teeth.
More certain signs : Gentle throbbing of the heart; pulsation of the temporal arteries ; a slight convulsive motion of the inner corner of the eye ; vibration of the eye-ball; and almost imperceptible convulsions of the muscles surrounding the neck.
Distinct signs of Life: A gentle motion of the jaw; gradual redness of the lips and cheeks ; contraction of the different muscles in the face ; convulsive motions of the toes; sneezing; tremor of the whole body ; vomiting; respiration interrupted by coughing; and groaning.