Sociology Index


Thanatology is the scientific study and analysis of death. Thanatology investigates death and the forensic aspects of death. Thanatology is an interdisciplinary and cross-cutting area of knowledge that is relevant to clinicians, social workers, and counselors who work directly with those at the end of life. Thanatology is also relevant to professional sectors including those that address various types of grief, loss, and bereavement at individual, family, and community levels. Metchnikoff called for a systematic study of death which is known as thanatology. After World War II, existential philosophers began considering life-and-death issues. Thanatology is part of Sociology of Death and Dying.

Herman Feifel, an American psychologist was a pioneer of the modern death movement. Feifel started discussions of death and dying with the publication of his book The Meaning of Death. Feifel dispelled myths held by scientists and practitioners about death. Feifel was able to lay the foundation for Thanatology through his book 'The Meaning of Death.'

Thanatology improved education about death and grief using death-related data and methodology. Though medical students had their encounters with cadavers through anatomical studies there has not been enough instruction on how to care for the dying. Thanatology as a scientific study and analysis of death will be greatly helpful to medical students.

"So live, that when thy summons comes to join
The innumerable caravan, which moves
To that mysterious realm, ..... approach thy grave
Like one who wraps the drapery of his couch
About him, and lies down to pleasant dreams."
- Thanatopsis, William Cullen Bryant. 

Élie Metchnikoff advocated that without systematic attention to death, life sciences would not be complete. Élie Metchnikoff argued that those who were dying had no resource for the experience of dying and that an academic study like thanatology would help those facing death to have a better understanding of the phenomenon and reduce their fear of death. Key texts like The Experience of Death by Paul-Louis Landsberg and Martin Heidegger's Being and Time were important books on thanatology.

Development of Thanatology: studies about death and dying.
KOVACS, Maria Julia. Abstract: This study discusses the main themes and research related to Thanatology, studies of death and dying. The pioneer experts who wrote the early works that systematize the area are presented: Herman Feifel, Robert Kastenbaum and Elizabeth Kübler-Ross, as well as the main themes of study: bereavement, violence and war, death and TV, palliative care, training of health and education professionals to deal with people experiencing loss and death. Further studies to develop Thanatology in Brazil are proposed.

Evolutionary Thanatology
James R. Anderson, Dora Biro, Paul Pettitt.

Abstract: Societies, including those of humans, have evolved multiple ways of dealing with death across changing circumstances and pressures. Despite many studies focusing on specialized topics, for example necrophoresis in eusocial insects, mortuary activities in early human societies, or grief and mourning in bereavement, there has been little attempt to consider these disparate research endeavours from a broader evolutionary perspective.

Evolutionary thanatology does this by adopting an explicit evolutionary stance for studies of death and dying within the sociological, psychological and biological disciplines. The psychological significance and impact of death is clearly seen in some species' grief-like reactions to the loss of attachment figures, and perhaps uniquely in humans, the existence of certain psychological processes that may lead to suicide.