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deaththe cessation of life. There is no statutory definition, nor, indeed, a fixed definition at common law. In relation to medical treatment, the court may consider that a person's being in a persistent vegetative state is sufficient to indicate that his or her life need no longer be preserved by artificial means, while not accepting the concept of euthanasia. It is important in many different legal contexts. Absence of brain-stem activity is coming to be recognized as a sound practical test.
Wills take effect on death. For many legal purposes it is possible to obtain a court order declaring that a person died on a certain date by virtue of a presumption of death, which comes into effect in both England and Scotland if a person has not been known to be alive for seven years.
DEATH, med. jur., crim. law, evidence. The cessation of life.
2. It is either natural, as when it happens in the usual course, without any violence; or violent, when it is caused either by the acts of the deceased, or those of others. Natural death will not be here considered further than may be requisite to illustrate the manner in which violent death occurs. A violent death is either accidental or criminal; and the criminal act was committed by the deceased, or by another.
3. The subject will be considered, 1. As it relates to medical jurisprudence; and, 2. With regard to its effects upon the rights of persons.
4.-1. It is the office of medical jurisprudence, by the light and information which it can bestow, to aid in the detection of crimes against the persons of others, in order to subject them to the punishment which is awarded by the criminal law. Medical men are very frequently called upon to make examinations of the bodies of persons. who have been found dead, for the purpose of ascertaining the causes of their death. When it is recollected that the honor, the fortune, and even the life of the citizen, as well as the distribution of impartial justice, frequently depend on these examinations, one cannot but be struck at the responsibility which rests upon such medical men, particularly when the numerous qualities which are indispensably requisite to form a correct judgment, are considered. In order to form a correct opinion, the physician must be not only skilled in his art, but he must have made such examinations his special study. A man may be an enlightened physician, and yet he may find it exceedingly difficult to resolve, properly, the grave and almost always complicated questions which arise in cases of this kind. Judiciary annals, unfortunately, afford but too many examples of the fatal mistakes made by physicians, and others, when considering cases of violent deaths.
5. In the examination of bodies of persons who have come to a violent death, every precaution should be taken to ascertain the situation of the place where the body was found; as to whether the ground appears to have been disturbed from its natural condition; whether there are any marks of footsteps, their size, their number, the direction to which they lead, and whence they came - whether any traces of blood or hair can be found - and whether any, and what weapons or instruments, which could have caused death, are found in the vicinity; and these instruments should be carefully preserved so that they may be identified. A case or two may here be mentioned, to show the importance of examining the ground in order to ascertain the facts. Mr. Jeffries was murdered at Walthamstow, in England, in 1751, by his niece and servant. The perpetrators were suspected from the single circumstance that the dew on the ground surrounding the house had not been disturbed on the morning of the murder. Mr. Taylor, of Hornsey, was murdered in December, 1818, and his body thrown into the river. It was evident he, had not gone into the river willingly, as the hands were found clenched and contained grass, which, in the struggle, he had torn from the bank. The marks of footsteps, particularly in the snow, have been found, not unfrequently, to correspond with the shoes or feet of suspected persons, and led to their detection. Paris, Med. Jur. vol. iii. p. 38, 41.
6. In the survey of the body the following rules should be observed: 1. It should be as thoroughly examined as possible without changing its position or that of any of the limbs; this is particularly desirable when, from appearances, the death has been caused by a wound, because by moving it, the altitude of the extremities may be altered, or the state of a fracture or luxation changed; for the internal parts vary in their position with one another, according to the general position of the body. When it is requisite to remove it, it should be done with great caution. 2. The clothes should be removed, as far as necessary, and it should be noted what compresses or bandages (if any) are applied to particular parts, and to what extent. 3. The color of the skin, the temperature of the body, the rigidity or flexibility of the extremities, the state of the eyes, and of the sphincter muscles, noting at the same time whatever swellings, ecchymosis, or livid, black, or yellow spots, wounds, ulcer, contusion, fracture, or luxation may be present. The fluids from the nose, mouth, ears, sexual organs, &c., should be examined; and, when the deceased is a female, it may be proper to examine the sexual organs with care, in order to ascertain whether before death she was ravished or not. 1 Briand, Med. Leg. 2eme partio, ch. 1, art. 3, n. 5, p. 318. 4. The clothes of the deceased should be carefully examined, and if parts are torn or defaced, this fact should be noted. A list should also be made of the articles found on the body, and of their state or condition, as whether the purse of the deceased had been opened; whether he had any money, &c. 5. The state of the body as to decomposition should be, particularly stated, as by this it may sometimes be ascertained when the death took place; experience proves that in general after the expiration of fourteen days After death, decomposition has so far advanced, that identity cannot be ascertained, excepting in some strongly developed peculiarity; but in a drowned body, adipocire is not produced until five or six weeks after death but this depends upon circumstance's, and varies according to climate, season, &c. It is exceedingly important, however to keep this fact in view in some judicial inquiries relative to the time of death. 1 Chit. Med. Jur. 443. A memorandum should be made of all the facts as they are ascertained when possible, it should be made on the ground, but when this cannot be done, as when chemical experiments are to be made, or the body is to be dissected, they should be made in the place where these operations are performed. 1 Beck's Med. Jur. 5; Dr. Gordon Smith, 505; Ryan's Med. Jur. 145; Dr. Male's Elem. of Judicial and For. Med. 101; 3 Paris & Fonbl. Med. Jur. 23 to 25; Vilanova Y Manes, Materia Criminal Forense, Obs. 11, cap. 7, n. 7; Trebuchet, Medecine Legale, 12, et seq; 1 Briand, Med. Leg. 2eme partie, ch. 1, art. 5. Vide article Circumstances.
7.-2. In examining the law as to the effect which death has upon the rights of others, it will be proper to consider, 1. What is the presumption of life or death. 2. The effects of a man's death.
8.-1. It is a general rule, that persons who are proved to have been living, will be presumed to be alive till the contrary is proved and when the issue is upon the death of a person, the proof of the fact lies upon the party who asserts the death. 2 East, 312; 2 Rolle's R. 461. But when a person has been absent for a long time, unheard from, the law will presume him to be dead. It has been adjudged, that after twenty-seven years 3 Bro. C. C. 510; twenty years in another case; sixteen years; 5 Ves. 458; fourteen years; 3 Serg. & Rawle, 390 twelve years; 18 John. R. 141; seven years; 6 East, 80, 85; and even five years Finch's R. 419; the presumption of death arises. It seems that even seven years has been agreed as the time when death may in general be presumed. 1 Phil. Ev. 159. See 24 Wend. R. 221; 4 Whart. R. 173. By the civil law, if any woman marry again without certain intelligence of the death of her husband, how long soever otherwise her husband be absent from her, both she and he who married her shall be punished as adulterers. Authentics, 8th Coll.; Ridley's View of the Civ. and Ecc. Law, 82.
9. The survivorship of two or more is to be proved by facts, and not by any settled legal rule, or prescribed presumption. 5 B. Adolp. 91; 27 E. C. L. R. 45; Cro. Eliz. 503 Bac. Ab. Execution D; 2 Phillim. 261; 1 Mer. R. 308; 3 Hagg. Eccl. R. 748; But see 1 Yo. & Coll. C. N. 121; 1 Curt. R. 405, 406, 429. In the following cases, no presumption of survivorship was held to arise; where two men, the father and son, were hanged about the same time, and one was seen to struggle a little longer than the other; Cor. Eliz. 503; in the case of General Stanwix, who perished at sea in the same vessel with his daughter; 1 Bl. R. 610; and in the case of Taylor and his wife, who also perished by being wrecked at sea with her, to whom he had bequeathed the principal part of his fortune. 2 Phillim. R. 261; S. C. 1 Eng. Eccl. R. 250. Vide Fearne on Rem. iv.; Poth. Obl. by Evans, vol. ii., p. 345; 1 Beck's Med. Jur. 487 to 502. The Code Civil of France has provided for most, perhaps all possible cases, art. 720, 721 and 722. The provisions have been transcribed in the Civil Code of Louisiana, in these words:
10. Art. 930. If several persons respectively entitled to inherit from one another, happen to perish in the same event, such as a wreck, a battle, or a conflagration, without any possibility of ascertaining who died first, the presumption of survivorship is determined by the circumstances of the fact.
11. Art. 931. lu defect of the circumstances of the fact, the determination must be guided by the probabilities resulting from the strength, ages, and difference of sex, according to the following rules.
12. Art. 932. If those who have perished together were under the age of fifteen years, the eldest shall be presumed to have survived. If both were of the age of sixty-years, the youngest shall be presumed to have survived. If some were under fifteen years, and some above sixty, the first shall be presumed to have survived.
13. Art. 933. If those who perished together, were above the age of fifteen years, and under sixty, the male must be presumed to have survived, where there was an equality of age, or a difference of less than one year. If they were of the same sex, the presumption of survivorship, by which the succession becomes open in the order of nature, must be admitted; thus the younger must be presumed to have survived the elder.
14.-2. The death of a man, as to its effects on others, may be considered with regard, 1. To his contracts. 2. Torts committed by or against him. 3. The disposition of his estate; and, 4. To the liability or discharge of his bail.
15.-1st. The contracts of a deceased person are in general not affected by his death, and his executors or administrators are required to fulfill his engagements, and may enforce those in his favor. But to this general rule there are some exceptions; some contracts are either by the terms employed in making them, or by implication of law, to continue only during the life of the contracting party. Among these may be mentioned the following cases: 1. The contract of marriage. 2. The partnership of individuals. The contract of partnership is dissolved by death, unless otherwise provided for. Indeed the partnership will be dissolved by the death of one or more of the partners, and its effects upon the other partners or third persons will be the same, whether they have notice of the death or otherwise. 3 Mer. R. 593; Story, Partn. Sec. 319, 336, 343; Colly. Partn. 71; 2 Bell's Com. 639, 5th ed.; 3 Kent, Com. 56, 4th ed.; Gow, Partn. 351; 1 Molloy, R. 465; 15 Ves. 218; S. C. 2 Russ. R. 325.; 3. Contracts which are altogether personal; as, for example, where the deceased had agreed to accompany the other party to the contract, on a journey, or to serve another; Poth. Ob. P. 3, c. 7, a. 3, Sec. 2 and 3; or to instruct an apprentice. Bac. Ab. Executor, P; 1 Burn's Just. 82, 3; Hamm. on Part. 157; 1 Rawle's R. 61.
16. The death of either a constituent or of an attorney puts an end to the power of attorney. To recall such power two things are necessary; 1st. The will or intention to recall; and, 2d. Special notice or general authority. Death is a sufficient recall of such power, answering both requisites. Either it is, according to one hypothesis, the intended termination of the authority or, according to the other, the cessation of that will, the existence of which is requisite to the existence of the attorney's power; while on either supposition, the event is, or is supposed to be, notorious. But exceptions are admitted where the death is unknown, and the authority, in the meanwhile, is in action, and relied on. 3 T. R. 215; Poth; Ob. n. 448.
17.-2d. In general, when the tort feasor or the party who has received the injury dies, the action for the recovery of the damages dies with him; but when the deceased might have waived the tort, and maintained assumpsit against the defendant, his personal representative may do the same thing. See the article Actio Personalis moriturcum persona, where this subject is more fully examined. When a person accused and guilty of crime dies before trial, no proceedings can be had against his representatives or his estate.
18.-3d. By the death of a person seised of real estate, or possessed of personal property at the time of his death; his property vests when he has made his will, as he has directed by that instrument; but when he dies intestate, his real estate vests in his heirs at law by descent, and his personal property, whether in possession or in action, belongs to his executors or administrators.
19.-4th. The death of a defendant discharges the special bail. Tidd, Pr. 243; but when he dies after the return of the ca. sa., and before it is filed, the bail are fixed. 6 T. R. 284; 5 Binn. R. 332, 338; 2 Mass. R. 485; 1 N. H. Rep. 172; 12 Wheat. 604; 4 John. R. 407; 3 McCord, R. 49; 4 Pick. R. 120; 4 N. H. Rep. 29.
20. Death is also divided into natural and civil.
21. Natural death is the cessation of life.
22. Civil death is the state of a person who, though possessing natural life, has lost all his civil rights, and, as to them, is considered as dead. A person convicted and attainted of felony, and sentenced to the state prison for life, is, in the state of New York, in consequence of the act of 29th of March, 1799, and by virtue of the conviction and sentence of imprisonment for life, to be considered as civilly dead. 6 Johns. C R. 118; 4 Johns. C. R. 228, 260; Laws of N. Y. Sess. 24, ch. 49, s. 29, 30, 31; 1 N. R. L. 157, 164; Co. Litt. 130, a; 3 Inst. 215; 1 Bl. Com. 132, 133; 4 Bl. Com. 332; 4 Vin. Ab. 152. See. Code Civ. art. 22 a 25; 1 Toull. n. 280 and p. 254, 5, note; also, pp. 243-5, n. 272; 1 Malleville's Discussion of the Code Civil, 45, 49, 51, 57. Biret, Vocab. au mot Effigie.
23. Death of a partner. The following effects follow the death of a partner, namely: 1. The partnership is dissolved, unless otherwise provided for by the articles of partnership. Gow's Partn. 429. 2. The representatives of the deceased partner become tenants in common with the survivor in all partnership effects in possession. 3. Choses in action so far survive that the right to reduce them into possession vests exclusively in the survivor. 4. When recovered, the representatives of the deceased partner have, in, equity, the same right of sharing and participating in them that their testator or intestate would have had had he been living. 5. It is the duty and the right of the surviving partner to settle the affairs of the firm, for which he is not allowed any compensation. 6. The surviving partner is alone to be sued at law for debts of the firm, yet recourse can be had in equity against the assets of the deceased debtor. Gow's Partn. 460. Vide Capital Crime; Dissolution; Firm; Partners; Partnership; Punishment. See, generally, Bouv. Inst. Index, h.t.