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ibstubro's avatar

Why don't obituaries just list the cause of death?

Asked by ibstubro (18770points) March 11th, 2011

I don’t mean gory details.
Car accident. Heart attack. Cancer. SIDS.
Why not just list the cause of death and remove the ‘speculation factor’?
Natural causes would be predominant, others would follow. What’s the point in making people speculate the cause of death?

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19 Answers

YARNLADY's avatar

When the information is provided by the family, it is usually included, but most people believe that type of information is personal and private.

cak's avatar

I don’t know.

I know we didn’t put it in about my father and none of us would have listed it, I think. Really, for us, it was such a painful time, I don’t even think it crossed our minds to list the cause. (stroke)

Friends and family knew what his cause of death was, I really don’t know why it’s necessary to tell the entire word. We were struggling enough to accept that he had died.

chyna's avatar

Exactly what @cak said.

Coloma's avatar


It is up to the family and nearest & dearest to determine what details they include.
My family has used the catch all ’ after a short/lengthy illness.’

Anyone close enough to care will already know, there is no reason to make ones death public entertainment.

Judi's avatar

We did with my mom and my baby brother. I think peoples first question is “What happened?”. We figured we might as well tell them. Mom had liver cancer.
My first husband was a suicide and we didn’t say how. When my little brother died the same way we decided it was time to break the silence and raise awareness.

zenvelo's avatar

My father’s proximate cause of death at age 82 was kidney failure. But he had cardiovascular system problems from obesity compounded by emphysema from smoking from age 18 to age 47, and asbestos exposure when he was in the Navy and also working in the construction of petro-chemical plants.

What would you have us put down? And what good or what difference would it make?

cak's avatar

@Judi: We had a suicide in our family; unfortunately, where this happened, he was well-known within the community. It wasn’t easy having it out there for the world to know, lots of morbid questions. Not from family or friends. From nosy people within the community.

I guess my example would be my biological father’s obituary. He was young, when he was murdered. Just listing that, would have been horrible for the family. Listing what happened: shot, point-blank, left-side of head. Nope. That wasn’t for the family to list. TV and newspapers covered it enough.

cak's avatar

oops, I left @ibstubro, off my example.

Judi's avatar

I understand why people would want to keep it private.
I have always made it a habit to try to live my life as an open book. I admit my mistakes and celebrate what I learn from them. I also hope that if I wear my pains on my sleve and share what I’ve learned, others might be able to avoid the same pain. But I do respect people who are not as public as me.

cak's avatar

@Judi – I’m going to guess on this one, based on my past. I’m guessing it has a lot to do with dealing with the initial stage of someone dying. Shock. I couldn’t believe I was sitting at a table having to write my father’s obituary. I know I was on auto-pilot. I still don’t quite remember making some of the decisions that I had to make.

Judi's avatar

@cak, Maybe I’m morbid, but after my moms sister died, I started preparing myself for the day my mom would die. I asked myself how I would handle different situations and had a plan.
My first husband threateaned so much that I had pretty much planned how I would deal with it if he ever went through with it.
My baby brother was the only one who threw me for a loop.

Seelix's avatar

In a lot of cases, the family will request, instead of flowers, memorial donations to a charity related to whatever illness caused the person’s death. You can often tell the cause of death if the family requests donations to the Alzheimer society, diabetes research, etc.

Personally, I don’t think it’s anyone’s business. If you’re close enough to the deceased, you’ll find out how they died. Otherwise, why does it matter?

cak's avatar

@Judi: I doubt morbid is ever a word I would use for you. I think we were prepared to have my father die from the disease he had been fighting, stroke through us for a loop. It wasn’t what we had planned on dealing with, when he passed. A plan would have helped, but we were just in shock.

filmfann's avatar

An obituary, and moreso a funeral, should be a time to remember the life of someone, not how they died.
So many causes of death are unflattering, undignified, and plain embarassing I am surprised you asked.

SpatzieLover's avatar

I am in complete agreement with @filmfann. I’d add more, but he said it perfectly & succinctly

Bellatrix's avatar

The only reason I could see this of being of benefit is from a historical record perspective. The death certificate gives the specific cause of death, but no real detail. In some way, the old obits that had far more detail were excellent sources of information for those who follow and are interested in who this person was (not just how they died, but how they lived). It can also be useful from the perspective of genetic problems that may affect future generations. I am finding that with my own family history.

It occurred to me the other day though, we know so little about those in our past unless they or someone close to them kept journals or some sort of family history. Most of the time within a couple of generations, nobody remembers anything about Old Uncle Fred, but he might have been a fascinating person who did amazing things. More inclusive obituaries might help keep not just the cause of death but all the wonderful things a person did in life alive for future generations.

downtide's avatar

Part of my job involves dealing with the accounts of customers who have passed away, and often there are death certificates and letters from solicitors which do mention the cause of death. I can’t help looking, out of morbid curiosity, but it can be heartbreaking sometimes. The worst was when we got one for a man in his fifties who was killed in a car accident. Two days later we got exactly the same for his son, aged 24, killed in the same accident. I was the one who had to write to the wife & mother. I can’t imagine what she was going through.

So, no. I don’t think information like that benefits anyone when it’s publicised. The friends & family will know already. No-one else needs to know, no-one else benefits in any way from the knowledge.

lonelydragon's avatar

Because the cause of death may be undignified and embarrassing, or the grief-stricken family may not want to dwell on the cause of death.

Juels's avatar

When I read an obit, I always wonder about the c.o.d. It would be really helpful if it was included. Otherwise, an obit is like a book missing the last chapter. So unfulfilling.

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