Trump, Benjamin F. Department of Pathology, University of Maryland Medical Center, Baltimore, Maryland.
McCormick, Thomas R. Department of Biomedical History, School of Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington.
Last reviewed:May 2018
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- Somatic death
- Organ death
- Cellular death
- Ethical issues
- Links to Primary Literature
- Additional Readings
Cessation of life functions. Death is the permanent termination of all vital cellular and body functions. It can involve the whole organism (somatic death), individual organs (organ death), individual cells (cellular death), and individual parts of cells (organelle death). Although the next smaller level of organization—the macromolecules that make up the cell organelles—may also cease to function, their disintegration is ordinarily not spoken of as death. In general, there are two processes of cell death (Fig. 1). Necrosis refers to the death of a cell or group of cells as a result of injury, disease, or some other pathologic state. In contrast, programmed cell death, or apoptosis, is a part of normal development and causes the death of individual cells; however, this process leaves adjacent cells intact. See also: Apoptosis; Cell (biology); Cell biology; Cell senescence; Disease; Pathology
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