Episode 20: Buried Alive

The nineteenth century was struck by a collective panic about being buried alive, leading to a bevy of new laws, regulations, and inventions like the safety coffin.  In this episode, we explore how medical science created and fueled this fear by blurring the line between life and death with the invention of new tests for death, developing life-saving technologies like rescue breathing, and even re-animating corpses. And just in case you thought the fear of premature interment was something of the past, we explore how issues raised in this panic still inform medicine today. Learn about all this, a brand new #AdamAnswers, and more in Episode 20 of Bedside Rounds, Buried Alive!



  • Pernick, M. Back from the Grave: Recurring Controversies over Defining and Diagnosing Death in History. Death: Beyond Whole-Brain Criteria. Volume 31 of the series Philosophy and Medicine pp 17-74
  • The Uncertainty of the Signs of Death and the Danger of Precipitate Interments and Dissections, from the Library of Congress: http://www.loc.gov/teachers/classroommaterials/lessons/jefferson/pdf/signs.pdf
  • NYTimes article: http://query.nytimes.com/mem/archive-free/pdf?res=9F00E4DF1E3EEF33A25752C2A9649C94649FD7CF
  • Newgate Chronicle: 


  • All music thanks to Kevin Macleod from Incompetech.com. Tracks in this episode included: Secret of Tiki Island, Rollin at 5, Bushwick Tarantella, Thinking Music, Villanous Treachery, March of the Spoons, Wepa