Death on a large scale and how to get our heads around it

What prompts us to think about what we normally don’t think about.  Well if the COVID-19 pandemic has done anything it has certainly made us sit up and take notice about death on a scale we haven’t seen for many many years.

Amanda Vanstone hosts Counterpoint on ABC Radio National and true to form since she is no shrinking violet she has not shied away from talking about death, as large numbers of people have been ‘carried off the field’ so to speak, as the virus has spread around the world.

Last year roughly 155, 732 people died around the world every day. As the saying goes: Death, just like tax, is normal.  In Death and home, Vanstone interviews Dr John Troyes, from the Centre for Death and Society, University of Bath, U.K. about how the scale of death as ‘a novel virus sweeps the world and produces a dead body count with life altering repercussions’.  

‘”A lot of the dying that goes on is largely invisible in our modern society  … [taking place as it does in institutions and not the family home as was the case in earlier times] … so we don’t see or hear about it.  We tend to ignore it.  It’s not in the consciousness of people,” says Troyes.

“Because of COVID-19 and death being a more imminent possibility, it’s brought the everydayness of dying to the forefront of people’s imagination in more ways than just a few months ago, when it just wasn’t.”


 Dr John Troyes explains that in order ‘to manage and cope with the millions of dead bodies produced every year, different countries create what I call a “national death infrastructure” or NDL’. Will this NDL help countries with the unexpected enormous amount of death and its consequences as a result of COVID-19 or were some countries not prepared for what has unfolded?

Amanada Vanstone asks about different ways to dispose of bodies – what new forms of formal disposition there are today.  To be buried vertically for example? Or put in a shroud and left to compost? Difference countries have different traditions.  What we call the final dignified disposition of the remains of a body. 

“As a species we will always be producing dead bodies and so there will always be a need for the handling of the human corpse and as technologies change it becomes possible to think again about what a dead body is,” John Troyes says.

Responding to a question about talking openly about death as a means of reducing fear, Troyes says it’s important that adults and parents become sufficiently familiar and comfortable to discuss dying and death as normal – especially at this time when death is so much in the news.

It has been proposed that news channels broadcast every day for a year how many people died around the world and in what circumstances these deaths took place.

“It is very beneficial to be brought up with death as an everyday fact of life. What we come away with is a better understanding of how we might live … “

To listen to the full 14 minute interview log on here and drag the program dot forward to 13 min. 30 sec. Death and home interview with John Troyes




and dying pro

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