The Law Dictionary

Featuring Black’s Law Dictionary Free Online Legal Dictionary 2nd Ed.

What is DEATH

The extinction of life; the departure of the soul from the body; defined by physicians as a total stoppage of the circulation of the blood, and a cessation of the animal and vital functions consequent thereon, such as respiration, pulsation, etc.
In legal contemplation, it is of two kinds:
(1) Xatural death, i. e., tlie extinction of life;
(2) Civil death, which is that change in a person’s legal and civil condition which
deprives him of civic rights and juridical capacities and qualifications, as natural death
extinguishes his natural condition. It follows as a consequence of being attainted of
treason or felony, in English law, and anciently of entering a monastery or abjuring the
realm. The person in this condition is said to be civiliter mortuus, civilly dead, or dead in
law. Baltimore v. Chester, 53 Vt. 310, 38 Am. Rep. 077; Avery v. Everett, 110 N. Y. 317,
18 N. E. 148, 1 L. IL A. 204, 0 Am. St. Hep. 308; In re Donnelly’s Estate, 125 Cal. 417,
58 Pac. 61, 73 Am. St. Uep. 62; Troup v. Wood, 4 Johns. Ch. (N. Y.) 24S; Coffee v.
Haynes, 124 Cal. 561, 57 Pac. 4S2, 71 Am. St. Rep. 90.
“Natural” death is also used to denote a death which occurs by the unassisted
operation of natural causes, as distinguished from a “violent” death, or one caused or
accelerated by the interference of human agency.

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