Death

There's no getting around the strangeness of a map that shows the most distinctive cause of death in each of our 50 states and the District of Columbia.

In Texas, it's tuberculosis. In Maine, it's the flu. And in Nevada, it's the ominous "legal intervention."

But what does it mean to label a cause of death distinctive?

It's been more than 15 years since the Institute of Medicine released its seminal 1997 report detailing the suffering that many Americans experience at the end of life and offering sweeping recommendations on how to improve care.

But the number of people experiencing pain in the last year of life actually increased by nearly 12 percent between 1998 and 2010, according to a study published Monday. And the number of people with depression in the last year of life increased by more than 26 percent.

Image: "Soul Sailing" by Missy Rogers
Missy Rogers

Pueo, the indigenous Hawaiian owl, reminds me that death dwells among the living.

Image: "Soul Sailing" by Missy Rogers
Missy Rogers

Aired Sunday 2/17, 2013

In Asia, a death poem is a gift to friends and family, a final distillation of a life.