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No. 94: Jul-Aug 1994

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LACRIMA MORTIS: THE TEAR OF DEATH

It must be a heart-wrenching experience to see a single tear roll down the cheek of a person at the moment of his or her death. I. Lichter, medical director of the Te Omanga Hospice, in New Zealand, wondered how often this phenomenon occurred and why. Working with the Hospice nursing staff, Lichter followed 100 patients nearing death.

"The results showed 14 patients shed a final tear at the time of death, and a further 13 within the last 10 hours of life.

"In 21 of the 27 cases, the dying person was unconscious at the time of the last tear. And in all but one case the tear was shed by patients whose death was expected rather than sudden."

Lichter and colleagues wondered if the death-bed tears were emotional in origin or perhaps caused by a reflex action. Notes made by the nursing staff were inconclusive on this matter. Lichter thought of chemically analyzing some of the last tears, because emotional tears have a different chemical composition from those produced by irritation. Unfortunately, a single tear was insufficent for the analysis.

(Morrison, Alastair; "The Mystery of the Death-Bed Tear," Wellington Dominion, August 11, 1993. Cr. P. Hassall)

From Science Frontiers #94, JUL-AUG 1994. 1994-2000 William R. Corliss

Science Frontiers Sourcebook Project Reviewed in:

Quotes

  • "A sourcebook of unexplained phenomena is therefore a valuable addition to a collection of scientific literature. William R. Corliss has provided this in the past with his source books of scientific anomalies in several subjects, and now he has provided it for astronomy. He has done an excellent job of collecting and editing a large amount of material, taken in part from scientific journals and in part from scientific reporting in the popular or semi-scientific press." -- "The Mysterious Universe: A Handbook of Astronomical Anomalies", reviwed by Thomas Gold, Cornell University, in Icarus, vol.41, 1980

  • "An interesting, systematic presentation of unusual weather [..] This book is recommended for a general audience" --"Corliss, William R., Tornados, Dark Days, Anomalous Precipitation, and Related Weather Phenomena, Sourcebook Project, 1983.", revieweed in Choice, September 1983
  • "..the science is necessarily somewhat speculative, but Corliss's symthesis is based on reputable sources." -- "Corliss, William R. (Compiler). Lightning, Auroras, Nocturnal Lights, and Related Luminous Phenomena" reviwed by Joseph M. Moran, Univ. of Wisconsin in Science Books and Films, Sep/Oct 1983

  • "Before opening the book, I set certain standards that a volume which treads into dangerous grounds grounds like this must meet. The author scrupulously met, or even exceeded those standards. Each phenomenon is exhaustively documented, with references to scientific journals [..] and extensive quotations" -- "Book Review: The moon and planets: a catalog of astronomical anomalies", The Sourcebook Project, 1985., Corliss, W. R., Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Vol. 81, no. 1 (1987), p. 24., 02/1987