MORE: L’Wren Scott Found Dead In Apparent Suicide
The latest figure from the U.K.-based anti-government group, Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, helps quantify the massive toll of Syria's three-year civil war, with about half of those reported deaths consisting of civilians
The report from the Observatory, an anti-government group that tracks violence across Syria, offers an updated death toll since the United Nations said in July that at least 100,000 people had been killed.
The UN said in January that it would stop updating the figure, and it is impossible to verify the Observatory’s figure, collected from a network of sources in Syria.
Roughly half of the 146,065 deaths were civilians, including 7,796 children.
UNICEF said in a report this month that 1.2 million children have fled the country and 5.5 million Syrian children in and outside the country are in need of humanitarian assistance.
Berkin Elvan, the teenager who died on Tuesday, months after being struck in the head by a police teargas canister during demonstrations in Istanbul, will be laid to rest Wednesday. His death has rekindled protests across the city
Thousands of people gathered in Istanbul on Wednesday in preparation for the funeral of a teenage boy who died this week after being hit by a police teargas canister during demonstrations last year.
The death of Berkin Elvan, 15, on Tuesday sparked demonstrations in cities across the country. The teenager fell into a coma after a blow to the head from a police teargas canister during clashes between demonstrators and security forces in June 2013, reports the BBC. At the time, Elvan was on the way to buy bread for his family. After his funeral in Cemevi, a march is due to take place through the center of the city.
The demonstrations started last year in response to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s attempts to close down a park in the center of Istanbul, paving the way for a shopping mall, but spiraled into widespread protests against his leadership. Elvan’s injury became a rallying point for anti-state protesters. His death is the eighth linked to clashes between demonstrators and state security forces.
President Abdullah Gül sent a message to Elvan’s family, admitting that “the mind of the state has become overwhelmed by anger and hatred.”
A U.S. Congressional committee says it will investigate General Motors amid reports that its employees knew, as early as 2004, of a potential lethal defect involving 1.6 million vehicles that would quickly turn off the engine
A U.S. congressional committee said it would investigate General Motor’s delayed recall of 1.6 million vehicles with a potentially lethal defect.
The BBC reports that as early as 2004, GM employees knew of a fault in the ignition that could suddenly switch off the car’s engine. Over the course of 11 years, safety regulators received 250 complaints from drivers who had suddenly lost control of their cars, according to the New York Times. Neither the car maker nor the regulators reacted to the warning signs until last month, when an internal GM investigation linked the deaths of 13 drivers to the faulty ignition.
Rep. Fred Upton said Congress would hold a hearing in the coming weeks to seek “detailed information” from both GM and safety regulators.
Neighbors say she might have been there for years
A Detroit contractor was going through a foreclosed home on Wednesday only to find its owner’s reportedly mummified body in the back of her car, parked in the garage.
Neighbors told the local CBS affiliate it had been years since they had seen their 40-something neighbor—some said three and others as many as six years since last sighting—but they hadn’t thought about it since she traveled frequently and might have moved.
Police are investigating the cause of her death, although remains frozen to the vehicle have complicated the autopsy process.
Research found that medical staff often lists people's immediate cause of death, such as pneumonia, on death certificates, when Alzheimer's was the underlying cause. If properly accounted for, Alzheimer's could rival heart disease and cancer as a leading cause of death+ READ ARTICLE
Alzheimer’s disease kills more Americans than we realize, researchers say.
Death certificates often do not list dementia as the underlying cause of death. Instead, the immediate cause, like pneumonia, is listed, obscuring Alzheimer’s-related deaths, according to Bryan D. James of Rush University Medical Center in Chicago and lead author of a study published in the journal Neurology.
The researchers followed 2,566 people between the ages 65 and older who had yearly tests for dementia. After about eight years, 1,090 of the participants died, and 559 of the participants who did not have dementia at the start of the study developed Alzheimer’s disease. The death rate among participants was four times higher after a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s in people between 75 to 84, and almost three times higher in people over age 85.
The researchers say this equates to an estimated 503,400 deaths from Alzheimer’s in Americans over age 75 in 2010. This is six times greater than the 83,494 deaths from Alzheimer’s disease the CDC reported. Currently, Alzheimer’s is the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S., according to the CDC. Heart disease and cancer are numbers one and two, at 597,689 and 574,743 deaths, respectively.
“Determining the true effects of dementia in this country is important for raising public awareness and identifying research priorities regarding this epidemic,” said James in a statement.
A close call at a funeral home has anyone who plans to die one day worrying
Correction added Feb. 28, 2014
Dead is dead—except when it isn’t. That’s the lesson 78-year old Walter Williams of Holmes County, Miss., learned late Wednesday night when he woke up in a body bag on an embalmer’s table, a wee bit more alive than the coroner had declared him to be. Williams, by all accounts, was the victim of bad luck, a sputtering pacemaker and a coronor who maybe hadn’t read the How To Know Someone’s Really Dead chapter when the rest of the class was studying it.
So how often does this happen and what are the odds that you will ever find yourself Zip-Locked for freshness when you’ve still got a bit of life in you?
Pronouncing someone dead has always been an inexact art. The tradition of the wake—or at least a day or two’s mourning period before the funeral—began as a way to give a body a fighting chance to show if it was alive. “The point was to make sure the dead guy is indeed a dead guy,” says Thomas Lynch, a funeral director and best-selling author of The Undertaking: Life Studies From the Dismal Trade, upon which the TV series Six Feet Under was based. “The living have been getting mistaken for the dead for a long time.”
But that was then (OK, if you’re Walter Williams, that was Wednesday) and methods have improved. When someone dies in a hospital, attending physicians do what’s known as “running a tape,” hooking the suspected deceased up to equipment that reads brain waves, heartbeat and respiration. When things go flat line—and stay that way—you’ve probably got yourself a body. Paramedics and other first responders have portable equipment that does the same thing, with the results getting beamed back to a hospital for confirmation.
Further tests make things more certain still. Bedside ultrasound can confirm lack of heart activity, says Dr. Robert Glatter of the department of emergency medicine at New York’s Lenox Hill Hospital. Brain death can be confirmed by the absence of brainstem reflexes, among other things, as well as the “doll’s eye test,” in which the head is moved from side to side with the eyes open. When the brain is dead, the eyes will not fix on the person in front of them, and will instead simply move with the head.
So what went wrong in Williams’ case? Everything. After he appeared to have suffered heart failure, the local coroner was duly called, and, according to Sheriff Willie March, did a less exacting job than he might have. “The coroner checked for wounds, didn’t get a pulse, and declared he had crossed over,” says March.
In some respects the rules were obeyed, since laws in all 50 states forbid a funeral home to take possession of a body until an authorized medical officer certifies the death. The problem is, not every state has the same definition of what such a person is.
“A coroner is not a medical officer,” says Lynch. “Often it’s just the local undertaker or the local favorite of whoever is in charge.” That may well not have been the case in the current mix-up, but the betting is that the standards will be tightened in the future. Until then, if you must die—and, says Lynch, “the numbers are right around 100% on that”—at least do it outside of Holmes County.
The reassuring news for most of us: The chances of a mix-up happening are exceedingly slim.
-with reporting from Charlotte Alter
An earlier version of this story misspelled the name of the Lenox Hill Hospital emergency care physician. He is Dr. Robert Glatter, not Glattner.
Alice Herz-Sommer spent two years in a Nazi concentration camp in WWII
The oldest survivor of the Holocaust passed away on Sunday aged 110, the BBC reports.
Alice Herz-Sommer, born in 1903 in Prague, was detained in the concentration camp Terezin for two years during WWII. Although her 73-year-old mother was sent to the extermination camp Treblinka, Herz-Sommer and her son Stephen were among the fewer than 20,000 people set free during the liberation of the camps by Soviet forces in 1945.
In the years after her release she became a successful pianist and music teacher at the Jerusalem Conservatory, before relocating to London in 1986. Her love of music was said to have sustained her and her fellow inmates while in the camp, where they would occasionally manage to organize concerts. A film about her life entitled The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life has been nominated for an award in the category of Best Short Documentary in next month’s Academy Awards.
Herz-Sommer stated that music was “our food. Through making music we were kept alive.” Her grandson Ariel Sommer stated that “she was an inspiration and our world will be significantly poorer without her by our side.”
Lawmakers passed a bill allowing euthanasia in very rare cases of terminally ill children
Belgium became the first country in the world to remove any age restrictions on euthanasia, after an emotional debate which split the medical profession over the best way to treat a terminally ill child with a desire to end his or her life.
Despite last-minute pleas for a rethink from within Belgium and as far away as Canada, parliament on Thursday agreed with the doctors who argued that in rare cases of unbearable and irreversible suffering, children should have the same right as an adult to ask to die with dignity.
Under the amendments to the country’s 2002 euthanasia law, a child of any age can be helped to die, but only under strict conditions. He or she must be terminally ill, close to death, and deemed to be suffering beyond any medical help. The child must be able to request euthanasia themselves and demonstrate they fully understand their choice. The request will then be assessed by teams of doctors, psychologists and other care-givers before a final decision is made with approval of the parents.
Dr. Jutte Van der Werf Ten Bosch, a pediatric oncologist from University Hospital Brussels, says such cases are very rare, but heartbreaking for families and doctors when they do come up. She recalls the frustration of treating a 16-year-old girl who was suffering severe complications from leukemia and was lying in a hospital bed connected to tubes, waiting to die.
“It was just hell for six months in the hospital,” she says. “I feel like a total failure in these cases. … You promise the child ‘I will take care of you, I will do the best I can,’ and then you can’t do the best you can because all these complications arise and you can’t do anything about it.”
She has come across children as young as eight who have articulated an understanding of their situation, but doctors expect the most likely cases would involve adolescents.
While assisted suicide is permitted under certain conditions in Switzerland, Germany and parts of the United States, only Belgium, Luxembourg and The Netherlands allow doctors to take steps to actively end a patient’s life, usually by administering an overdose of sedatives. In Luxembourg, that patient must be over 18, while in The Netherlands children can request euthanasia from the age of 12.
Belgium’s existing euthanasia law for adults has broad public support, and a recent survey by the RTBF broadcaster found that 75% of people supported extending the same rights to children. Parliament approved these amendments on Thursday with 86 MPs voting in favor, 44 against, and 12 abstentions. The Senate had already passed the bill in December.
But there has been opposition, both from religious groups and more than 170 Belgian pediatricians who signed an open letter to parliament this week requesting they delay the vote.
Dr. Stefaan Van Gool, a pediatrician at the University of Leuven, says the doctors were concerned that procedures for assessing a child’s mental capacity to make life-and-death decisions were not sufficiently clear in the bill. They were also worried a child might be pressured into making a decision by parents, and that were are too many possibilities for misuse of the law.
“We are suffering together with these children to get through the most difficult moments of life, but at such time what we deliver to these children is care,” he says, adding that his experiences show children want to live as full a life as possible right until the very end. “We have children who do exams up to two days before they die. They are children that always dream about a future, although this future may only be a few hours.”
A plea also came from Canada earlier this month, where a four-year-old girl born with a congenital heart condition recorded a video message urging Belgium’s King Philippe not to sign the law, which is the final formality. Her mother told the monarch that she was concerned that a child like her daughter—who grew up to be a happy, active child—could be euthanized after birth.
Dr. Gerlant van Berlaer, a pediatrician who also works at the University Hospital Brussels, understands why the debate in Belgium has provoked strong feelings all over the world. “I would be rather scared if it didn’t evoke emotional reactions: we’re talking about children,” he tells TIME.
But he says no doctor would ever take the decision to end a child’s life lightly. “The first reaction I will always have and all my colleagues will have is to run away from these questions because we don’t want to hear this,” he says.
He remains haunted by all the cases in which he was powerless to do anything. He cites the case of a child with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, where the muscles degenerate to the point where a sufferer can no longer swallow or speak. “They can see the children in the bed next to them suffocate,” he says. “They will say, ‘I know my life will end, but doctor, just don’t let it end like my friend’s did.’”
Until now, the law has not allowed him to even discuss such an option. “This child asked me not to let him suffocate,” he says. “Of course I did not do anything active at the time, but I’m still struggling with this, because I did not respond to the last question of the child.”
The Depression Era starlet who rocketed to fame at the age of 6 has died of natural causes in her home near San Francisco+ READ ARTICLE
Shirley Temple, the actress forever imagined as a dimpled, curly-haired movie star, died Monday evening at the age of 85, according to her publicist. She died in her Woodside, Calif., home surrounded by family members and caregivers, the Associated Press reports.
Born in 1928, Temple rose to fame as a child star in the Depression Era thanks to her star singing and tap dancing in the 1934 hits Stand Up and Cheer and Bright Eyes. But her early rise meant early retirement, too, and she stopped making films in 1950 at the age of 21. In later years she became a political activist, launching a failed bid for Congress on the Republican ticket in 1967. Later she held numerous diplomatic posts, serving as U.S. ambassador abroad, most famously to Czechoslovakia during the fall of communism.
A statement released by her family read, “We salute her for a life of remarkable achievements as an actor, as a diplomat, and most importantly as our beloved mother, grandmother and great-grandmother.”