We do not [divergent eyes]. But in case a friend asks, undertaker Caitlin Doughty is here to share insider knowledge, awesome little tidbits, and, yes, to answer that question.
Every day, Caitlin Doughty Funeral Home receives dozens of questions about death, with the most honest ones coming from children. In her new book, Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs, she answers 35 of her very direct questions. Here is her response to one about being buried alive.
What if they make a mistake and bury me in a coma?
Okay, to be clear, you don't want to be buried alive, do you? I have understood.
Luckily you don't live in Ye Olden Times!During the Ye Olden Times (before the 20th century), doctors had a less than spotless record when it came to pronouncing people dead. The tests they used to determine if someone was really dead weren't just low-tech; they were horrible
For your enjoyment, here's a fun example of death tests:
* Putting needles under the toenails or in the heart or stomach
* Cut feet with knives or burn them with red-hot pokers
* Smoke enemas for drowning victims - someone would literally blow smoke up your butt to see if it would warm you up and make you breathe.
* Burn your hand or cut your finger
And there's my personal favourite:
Write “I really am dead” in invisible ink (made from lead acetate) on a piece of paper, and then place the paper over the corpse's face. According to the inventor of this method, when the body was putrefying, sulfur dioxide was released, revealing the message. Unfortunately, sulfur dioxide can also be emitted by living people, such as people with decayed teeth. Therefore, there may be some false alarms.
Two days after Angelo Hays's funeral, he was exhumed for examination. Investigators determined that the "corpse" was still warm and that Angelo was alive.
If you woke up, breathed, or visibly reacted to these "tests," hallelujah! - You were not dead, but you can be mutilated. And that needle stuck in your heart can really kill you. What about the poor souls who were not subjected to the battery of stitches, cuts and enemas but were left for 100% dead and sent to the grave?
Take the story of Matthew Wall, a man living in Braughin, England in the 16th century (yes, he does).Matthew was presumed dead, but was lucky his pallbearers slipped on wet leaves and dropped the coffin on the way to his funeral. As the story goes, Matthew woke up to the coffin falling over and banged on the lid to try to loosen it. To this day, every October 2 is celebrated asold man's daycommemorating the rebirth of Matthew. By the way, he lived another 24 years. With stories like this, it's no surprise that certain cultures have extreme taphophobia, or fear of being buried alive.
Matthew Wall was lucky his body never made it to the grave before he was discovered to be alive, but Angelo Hays was not.1937 - yes, 1937 is not the old days, but at least it was long before you were born - Angelo Hays from France was involved in a motorcycle accident. When doctors couldn't find his pulse, they pronounced him dead. He was quickly buried and his own parents were unable to see his disfigured body. Without the suspicion of life insurance, Angelo would have been buried. Two days after Angelo's funeral, he was exhumed for examination. Examining the "corpse", the examiners found that it was still warm and that Angelo was alive.
The theory goes that Angelo was in a very deep coma, which was making his breathing slow.It was this slow breathing that allowed him to stay alive while buried. (Note: If you are buried alive and breathing normally, there is a chance you could suffocate. At most, a person can live in an airborne coffin for a little over five hours. If you start to hyperventilate, panic may be buried alive he becomes (oxygen will probably run out sooner.) Angelo recovered, lived a full life, and even invented a "safety coffin" with a radio transmitter and a bathroom.
The media and TV shows often use terms like "coma" and "brain death" interchangeably, don't they?
Fortunately, if you find yourself in a coma today, in the 21st century, there are many, many ways to make sure you're safe and dead before heading to the funeral.But while tests may show that you are technically alive, your new status may be little comfort to you and your family. The media and TV shows often use terms like "coma" and "brain death" interchangeably: "Chloe was my true love and now she will never wake up from her coma. I have to decide whether to disconnect.“This Hollywood version of medicine can make it seem like those conditions are the same, just one step away from death. Is not true!
Of the two, the one you really don't want is brain dead.(I mean, neither one is great, let's be real.) But once you're brain dead, there's no going back. Not only have you lost all of the higher brain functions that generate your memories and behaviors and allow you to think and speak, but you've also lost all of the involuntary things that your lower brain does to keep you alive, such as: . Respiration, system, nervous system, temperature and reflexes. There are myriad biological actions controlled by your brain so you don't have to remind yourself to "stay alive, stay alive."
When you are brain dead, these functions are performed by hospital equipment, such as ventilators and catheters. You cannot recover from brain death. If you're brain dead, you're dead. There's no gray area (<brain matter joke): you're either brain dead or you're not. On the other hand, if you are in a coma, legally you are very much alive. In a coma, he still has brain function that doctors can measure by looking at electrical activity and his responses to external stimuli. In other words, your body is still breathing, your heart is beating, etc. Even better, you may be able to recover from a coma and regain consciousness.
We now have a large body of scientific evidence to confirm that someone is truly brain dead.
Okay, but what if I go into a deep coma?Is someone going to end up hanging up the phone and sending me to the morgue? I'll be stuck in a coffinmiin the prison of my thoughts? NO. We now have a full set of scientific evidence to confirm that someone is not just in a coma, but actually brain dead.
These tests include but are not limited to:
* See if your students are reactive. When a bright light shines on them, do they contract? The eyes of brain dead people do nothing.
* Pass a cotton swab over the eyeball. If you blink, you live!
* Test your gag reflex. Your breathing tube can be moved in and out of your throat to see if you are choking. The dead do not suffocate.
* Inject cold water into the ear canal. When doctors do this to you and your eyes don't move quickly from side to side, it doesn't look good.
* Spontaneous breathing check. When you are taken off a ventilator, CO2 builds up in your system and basically suffocates you. Normally, when the CO2 in the blood reaches 55 mm Hg, an active brain tells the body to breathe spontaneously. If not, your brain stem is dead.
* An EEG or electroencephalogram, which is an all or nothing test. Either there is electrical activity in your brain or there isn't. Dead brains have no electrical activity.
* A CBF or cerebral blood flow study. A radioactive isotope is injected into the bloodstream. After some time, a radioactive counter is placed on your head to check if blood is flowing to your brain. If the brain is perfused, the brain cannot be considered dead.
* Administer IV atropine. The heart rate of a living patient speeds up, but that of a brain-dead patient does not change.
A person does not have to pass many tests to be declared brain dead.And more than one doctor has to confirm brain death. Only after countless tests and a thorough physical exam do you go from being a "coma patient" to a "brain dead patient." Nowadays he's not just some guy with a needle through his heart and "I'm really dead" scrawled on a piece of paper. It is highly unlikely that your living brain will escape and you will leave the hospital in a coma.
Even if it were you, there isn't an undertaker or coroner I know who doesn't know the difference between a living person and a dead body.Having seen thousands of corpses in my career, let me tell you: the dead are very dead, in a very predictable way. Not that my words sound too reassuring. Or scientific. But I am confident in saying that it won't happen to you. On your Strange Ways to Die list, you could move Buried Alive - Eat just below Terrible Gopher Accident.
Excerpt from the new book courtesyWill my cat eat my eyes? Big questions from little mortals about deathby Caitlin Doughty. Published by W.W. Norton & Co., Inc. © 2019 Caitlin Doughty.
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About the Author
Caitlin Doughtyis a mortician and the author of the New York Times bestsellers Smoke Gets in Your Eyes and From Here to Eternity. She is the creator of the Ask an Undertaker web series and founder of the Order of the Good Death. She lives in Los Angeles, where she owns and runs Undertaking LA, a funeral home.
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