Is a corpse more flexible than a living person?

Is a corpse more flexible than a living person?

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I read that the majority of humans have the muscular-skeletal potential to perform the splits that you see many gymnasts perform. The reason a living person with no flexibility training can not achieve the splits is because the person's central nervous system (CNS) automatically constricts the muscle fibers of the legs when the legs move beyond the person's normal range of motion. I read that this automatic CNS response is called the stretch reflex, and it is the CNS's way to protect the body from performing potentially dangerous movements.

So my question is: does this mean a body with a non-functioning CNS is very flexible? For example, if I could not perform splits while I was alive, could someone position my corpse into the splits before the event of rigor mortis?

According to the science in this article:, not really. Flexibility such as splits are only possible by lengthening the skeletal muscle fibers (in the case of splits, this includes the hamstring and iliopsoas). Which means that splits aren't solely dependent on how your CNS functions.

Furthermore, with death eventually comes rigor mortis where due to the body's chemical changes after death (lack of ATP production etc…, the body becomes rigid which makes it even more difficult for a dead person to do splits than a live one without seriously damaging the dead person's body/muscles.

The Coroner Report: Weekend at Bernie s

Nearly 25 years after Bernie Lomax was killed, a new coroner’s report sheds light on how his body endured so much trauma, and why the two responsible violated the Geneva Convention.

What follows is the coroner’s report for Lomax, employee of a large New York insurance firm, whose body was in the possession of witnesses Larry Wilson and Richard Parker over a short weekend at Lomax’s beach home.

Body Examination:

Date of death: June 5, 1989

Manner of death: heroin overdose

The victim was discovered in his beach home with several gunshot wounds in his chest. The witnesses stated that they had been with the body for a period of at least 24 hours since the victim passed away from an apparent heroin overdose.

However, it is the opinion of this investigator that the witnesses’ testimony is faulty, based on the condition of the body. Their “weekend at Bernie’s” should have been “weekend with a bloated, stiff, green corpse.”

According to basic forensic science, the human body after death is not a pretty thing. After the induced heroin overdose, the victim would have quickly exhibited pallor mortis, or a loss of color in the skin due to the end of blood flow, within minutes of death. To pass off the victim at parties and in public, the witnesses must have taken time to apply and reapply extensive makeup to the body of the victim.

During the next one to two hours, the victim’s body would begin to cool during algor mortis. In the first hour, the body would likely drop a few degrees in external body temperature. With each following hour, the body would have lost another one to two degrees. To pass off a body in this state as living, the witnesses must have periodically heated the body (most likely in the summer sun) every few hours during their weekend. Though externally warm to the touch, the victim’s body would continue to cool internally until it reached the ambient outside temperature.

After three hours, rigor mortis would set in. Famously known as the stiffening of a corpse, rigor mortis is brought on more by what the body can no longer do rather than something the body is doing. When a person contracts their muscles, chemicals build bridges between muscle fibers, pulling the tissue along and then detaching to repeat the process. When a person dies, they can no longer use the chemicals that usually break these little bridges allowing for continued muscle contraction. The muscle fibers become fixed in place as the metabolism of a dead body tailspins towards demise, resulting in the stiffening we are all familiar with.

Witnesses report that the body of the victim was not stiff, indeed, it was flexible enough to be carried around as if walking, dragged behind a boat, and finally flipped off a gurney to be buried in the sand by a small child. To achieve this ease of motion during the time the witnesses Wilson and Parker were in possession of the body, they could have used the same technique that butchers use to make sure recently refrigerated meat does not undergo rigor mortis. It is the opinion of this investigator that the witnesses applied alternating electric current to the body, in effect tenderizing the victim.

Six to twelve hours into their weekend with the victim, the witnesses would have seen the body undergo livor mortis. The blood of the victim, no longer able to fight gravity, would begin to pool in the extremities of the body. To hide the visual changes that accompany this state—ghostly pale areas accented by blood red ones—the witnesses kept the victim’s body covered at all times with a full outfit, including sunglasses.

Lastly, and most disturbingly, the body of the victim would have begun to decompose immediately upon death. The stomach area would bloat, intestines would begin pushing their way out, and cells themselves would rupture. In fact, because receiving numerous gunshots in this state, as the victim did, would have likely “spilled the guts” of the victim, it is the opinion of this investigator that the witnesses drastically altered the body.

No witnesses outside Parker and Wilson noted that the body was disemboweled after taking so many gunshots, so one conclusion could be that Parker and Wilson removed the internal organs of the body—in the style of Egyptian mummification—to prevent rapid decomposition.

And because the effluvium of a decomposing body would be repellent to all but insects, Parker and Wilson must have applied serious amounts of insect repellant and air freshener to the corpse. However, if these materials were used, they were not recovered at the scene.

Needless to say, regardless of what the witnesses actually did to the victim’s body to preserve it, Bernie Lomax’s body could not endure another such outing.

Finally, though there is no widely adopted state or federal laws pertaining to the “proper treatment” of dead bodies, the egregious actions of the witnesses Wilson and Parker evoke a response from international law. To pass off a dead body as living, to subject it to such abuse, to parade it about in public, is to violate the Geneva Convention. Rule 113 of the convention states that “each party to the conflict shall facilitate the steps taken … to protect [the killed] against … ill-treatment.” Though these rules only apply during armed conflicts between countries that have accepted the doctrine, it is the opinion of this investigator that the extreme mistreatment of the victim’s body (killed by a forced drug overdose) qualifies as an infringement.

This investigator concludes, perhaps overzealously, that charges should be retroactively filled against the witnesses on behalf of the Lomax estate, as the ensuing defamation of the Lomax name has made it impossible for his family to have a quiet weekend anywhere.

Image: Screenshot from Weekend At Bernie’s.

The views expressed are those of the author(s) and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.


Kyle Hill is a science communicator who specializes in finding the secret science in your favorite fandom. He has a bachelor's degree in environmental engineering and a master's degree in communication research (with a focus on science, health, and the environment) from Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Aside from co-hosting Al Jazeera America's science show, TechKnow, Hill is also a freelancer who has contributed to Wired, Nature Education, Popular Science, Slate, io9, Nautilus, and is a columnist for Skeptical Inquirer. He manages Nature Education's Student Voices blog, is a research fellow with the James Randi Educational foundation, and you can follow him on Twitter under the name @Sci_Phile.

The unborn is a human being: What science tells us about unborn children

Before we can know how to treat unborn children (an ethical question), we must know what they are biologically. This is a question of science.

Here's what science tells us about the unborn.

Why the unborn is a human being

When a sperm successfully fertilizes an oocyte (egg), a new cell, called a zygote, is generated by their union. The zygote represents the first stage in the life of a human being. This individual, if all goes well, develops through the embryonic (first eight weeks) and fetal (eight weeks until birth) periods and then through infancy, childhood, and adolescence before reaching adulthood.

Four characteristics of the unborn human (the zygote, embryo, or fetus) are important:

Distinct. The unborn has a DNA and body distinct from her mother and father. She develops her own arms, legs, brain, nervous system, heart, and so forth.

Living. The unborn meets the biological criteria for life. She grows by reproducing cells. She turns nutrients into energy through metabolism. And she can respond to stimuli.

Human. The unborn has a human genetic signature. She is also the offspring of human parents, and humans can only beget other humans.

Organism. The unborn is an organism (rather than a mere organ or tissue)—an individual whose parts work together for the good of the whole. Guided by a complete genetic code (46 chromosomes), she needs only the proper environment and nutrition to develop herself through the different stages of life as a member of the species.

These facts about the unborn are established by the science of embryology and developmental biology. They are confirmed by embryology texts, scientific journals, and other relevant authorities.

"Human development begins at fertilization when a sperm fuses with an oocyte to form a single cell, a zygote," explains the textbook The Developing Human: Clinically Oriented Embryology. "This highly specialized, totipotent cell marks the beginning of each of us as a unique individual."

"The development of a human being begins with fertilization," notes Langman's Medical Embryology, "a process by which the spermatozoon from the male and the oocyte from the female unite to give rise to a new organism, the zygote."

The scientific evidence, then, shows that the unborn is a living individual of the species Homo sapiens, the same kind of being as us, only at an earlier stage of development. Each of us was once a zygote, embryo, and fetus, just as we were once infants, toddlers, and adolescents.

Objections to the humanity of the unborn

Many people, however, still dispute the biological humanity of the unborn. Here are some of the most common science-related objections.

Some people point out that the sperm and egg are alive. Indeed, life, in a broad sense, is continuous (stretching back to the beginning of life on Earth). So it's not accurate, they claim, to say that life "begins" at conception.

It's true that life in general is continuous, but the life of an individual human being is not continuous. It has a beginning and an end. The beginning is called conception. "Although life is a continuous process," explains the textbook Human Embryology & Teratology, "fertilization … is a critical landmark because, under ordinary circumstances, a new, genetically distinct human organism is formed."

Many people note that human organs, tissues, and cells (including the sperm and egg) are living and genetically human. But merely being alive and human doesn't make them human beings. Neither, the argument goes, does it make the unborn a human being.

The difference, however, is that the unborn is a whole organism—an individual member of the species—and other cells and tissues are mere parts. So the unborn isn't just living and human (in the adjective sense of those words) she's a life and a human (in the noun sense). None of us was ever a kidney or a skin cell or a sperm cell. But each of us was once an embryo.

Some people think that the cells of a very early embryo are too unspecialized or insufficiently unified for the embryo to count as an individual human being. The embryo, they say, is more akin to a mass or ball of cells.

From the zygote stage forward, however, the unborn human clearly exhibits the molecular composition and behavior characteristic of a self-integrated and self-directed organism rather than a mere collection of cells. That's why she can go on to develop the specialized tissues and organs that she does.

"From the moment of sperm-egg fusion," concludes embryologist Maureen L. Condic, a professor at the University of Utah School of Medicine, in a detailed scientific analysis, "a human zygote acts as a complete whole, with all the parts of the zygote interacting in an orchestrated fashion to generate the structures and relationships required for the zygote to continue developing towards its mature state."

Before about 14 days post-conception, some embryos split into two embryos (identical twins). Therefore, some think, embryos before this point aren't yet individual, unitary human beings.

But the fact than one organism can give rise to two doesn't mean it isn't an individual organism. A flatworm, as Patrick Lee observes, can be cut to produce two separate flatworms, and that doesn't mean a flatworm isn't a flatworm. The evidence of embryology shows that human embryos, likewise, are unitary and individual organisms even if twinning later occurs.

Parallel with brain death

The irreversible cessation of brain function indicates the death of a human being. Some people argue, then, that the life of a human being cannot begin until brain activity begins.

But the reason (total) brain death matters is that it means the body can no longer function as an integrated whole (even if some cells and tissues are still alive). The brain, in older humans, is essential for that purpose. Before the development of the brain in the first place, however, the very young embryo does not require it in order to function as an organism and direct her own growth (including the development of her brain).

Thus, while a brain-dead patient is a corpse in the process of decay, an embryo is a living and growing individual.

Science and morality

If the basic scientific facts pertaining to the nature of the unborn are straightforward, why do so many people claim that "no one knows when life begins" or that a human embryo isn't human? The biggest reason is that science is conflated with morality, philosophy, or religion.

When someone says that the unborn is not yet "human" or "alive," he is often using those terms in a non-scientific way. He doesn't mean that the unborn isn't biologically human or alive. He means that the unborn isn't valuable or doesn't have human rights. He means that the unborn doesn't yet have the characteristics (e.g., "viability," self-awareness, an infant-like appearance) he thinks would make her "human" or "alive" in this philosophical sense.

So there are two distinct issues here. First, the scientific issue: Is the unborn a human being in the biological sense—a living human organism? The answer, unequivocally, is yes.

Second, the moral or philosophical issue: How should we treat these human beings who have not yet been born? Do they have a right to life? Do all members of our species matter, or only some? This is where the controversy actually lies.

Human embryos and fetuses are human beings. That's what science tells us. Is human equality true? That's what the abortion debate is really about.

A version of this article first appeared in the November-December 2017 issue of MCCL News.

Is a corpse more flexible than a living person? - Biology

The microbial ecosystems inhabiting corpses could help forensic scientists determine a person&rsquos time of death, even after almost two months. Christopher Intagliata reports.

Full Transcript

Tens of trillions of microbes call our living bodies home. But when we die? "The first thing that happens is basically ecosystem collapse&mdashwhere you have a tremendous loss of diversity." Nathan Lents, a molecular biologist at John Jay College in New York. "And then it bottoms out and starts to get rich again."

That microbial phoenix, rising from our extinguished mortal coils, is called the "necrobiome." Lents and his team tracked the necrobiome, by swabbing the ears and noses of 21 cadavers at a body farm in Tennessee. It's a sort of outdoor lab for forensic scientists, where bodies are left to the elements to decompose.

They tracked the genetic signatures of that microbial community as it waned and waxed after death. And they used that data to build an algorithm that could pinpoint a corpse's time of death, to an accuracy of just two summertime days. "And that held out for up to six to seven weeks. And that's way better than entomology can tell you." Entomology being the study of the insects that colonize a corpse. "Entomology's okay for giving you upper and lower limits within five to seven days, but beyond that, entomology's not helpful."

The method isn't quite ready for primetime. There's still a lot of 'biological noise' in the system. "We're talking about living things here. Well. living and dead things." But as with any machine learning, more info will help it see beyond the noise. "It will forever learn. So the more data we pump into this system, the better it will get." Ultimately, Lents says, the algorithm will have to be smart enough to hold up in a court of law, when it could determine the fate of someone accused of turning someone into a corpse.

Flexibility: The Ultimate Perk?

Location flexibility isn’t just a way to keep current employees happy. Companies that don’t embrace flexible working may find themselves at a disadvantage when recruiting new talent. Nearly two-thirds of candidates say that having a choice of work location is a key consideration in choosing an employer.

Lockdown measures have highlighted the value of workplace flexibility – particularly for people with kids. A total of 86% of parents now want to work flexibly, compared to 46% pre-coronavirus.

As the economy slowly begins to reopen, it remains to be seen whether or not COVID-19 accelerated inevitable trends in workplace culture. If so, taking Zoom calls in sweatpants may become the new normal for millions of workers.

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MDMA Shows New Promise for Trauma, but the Drug Alone Is Not a Cure

A long-awaited study is making worldwide headlines for finding that the outlawed psychoactive drug MDMA is startlingly effective in treating post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). But researchers and study participants say the substance itself, while extremely powerful, catalyzes healing rather than working on its own: MDMA treatment also requires dozens of hours of therapy&mdashbefore, during and after the drug experience&mdashwith professionals whose special training is expensive and intense.

Researchers hope the new study, published this week in Nature Medicine, will help this treatment gain regulators&rsquo approval for clinical use within a couple of years. Many therapists and patients are thrilled: About two thirds of PTSD sufferers do not respond to other treatments. And MDMA had shown tremendous promise in earlier, smaller studies.

The California-based Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) funded the new study and has been working toward it&mdashand the ultimate goal of legal MDMA therapy&mdashfor decades, says senior author Rick Doblin, founder and executive director of the organization. MAPS conducted a small trial with MDMA in Spain starting in 2000, but Doblin says he first met people who had experimented with the drug for trauma relief in 1984. &ldquoI knew from before it was even criminalized [in 1985 in the U.S.] that MDMA had an incredible role for PTSD,&rdquo he says. It has taken more than 30 years and $75 million in independent funding to reach this point, and even Doblin is surprised at the results. &ldquoI expected this to work,&rdquo he says, &ldquobut the big surprise was how statistically significant it was.&rdquo

The new study&mdasha phase III clinical trial&mdashinvolved 91 patients across 15 sites who were randomized to receive either MDMA (3,4-methylenedioxy-methamphetamine) or a placebo. Neither the participants nor the researchers knew who had been given the psychoactive drug. The scientists found that 67 percent of PTSD sufferers who had MDMA with an intensive course of psychotherapy no longer qualified for a PTSD diagnosis following the trial, compared with 32 percent of those who received a placebo with psychotherapy. And 88 percent of subjects in the MDMA group experienced a &ldquoclinically significant improvement&rdquo in symptoms.

&ldquoThis proves what we knew from the earlier studies but now in a multicenter context,&rdquo says David Nutt, a psychiatrist and deputy head of the Center for Psychedelic Research at Imperial College London. He was not involved in the new paper, yet has long endorsed MDMA&rsquos potential to help treat PTSD. In a commentary written to accompany the study, Nutt and Harriet de Wit of the University of Chicago note that animal studies and human brain imaging show why and how MDMA might be useful for processing trauma. Scans in humans demonstrate that the drug appears to dampen the activity of the amygdala&mdasha brain region involved in fear&mdashallowing people to more comfortably revisit and process terrifying or painful memories. Rodent studies indicate MDMA can reopen a &ldquocritical window&rdquo in brain functioning, Nutt says, allowing the organ to regain the plasticity seen in younger brains that are capable of &ldquolearning new behavioral responses.&rdquo

&ldquoPTSD is a difficult nut to crack&mdashone main reason being that traumas become stuck,&rdquo explains Jennifer Mitchell, a neuroscientist at the University of California, San Francisco, and lead author of the study. &ldquoBut with MDMA, things that had really crystallized become more flexible, and this gives you the chance to shake the tree and let all the nuts fall out.&rdquo

The fact that the MDMA therapy took place at 15 different sites spanning the U.S., Canada and Israel is one of the factors that makes this study so powerful, Mitchell says. &ldquoIf the therapy works at all 15 study sites, in all 15 populations with all 15 therapist teams, then chances are you&rsquore onto something&mdashthat it&rsquos not the water in Vancouver or the weather in Israel or some specific therapist in San Francisco,&rdquo she says. &ldquoThe chances are that it&rsquos something to do with the MDMA itself.&rdquo

The MAPS team anticipates the U.S. Food and Drug Administration will approve MDMA-assisted psychotherapy by 2023. But that may still seem frustratingly far off to some therapists, as well as PTSD sufferers, who frequently struggle with the condition for decades.

John Reissenweber was drafted into the Vietnam War in 1968, when he was 20 years old. He says he experienced multiple traumas resulting from combat experiences and has suffered from PTSD ever since. Although he endured physical injuries, including two broken eardrums, he says it was the psychological trauma of fighting and &ldquosurvivor&rsquos guilt&rdquo from escaping the conflict alive that caused the most damage.

For the next 50 years, Reissenweber says, he self-medicated with alcohol and cigarettes and suffered from profound anger issues. But he never sought help because he did not think he needed it&mdasha common coping strategy. It was only after Reissenweber&rsquos wife and friends confronted him over his anger issues in an &ldquointervention&rdquo that he looked into the MAPS study. &ldquoI've been carrying this shit for 50 years. And now, at the age of 73, I actually wake up and want to live,&rdquo he says.

But it is not solely Reissenweber&rsquos MDMA experience, which took place two years ago, that he credits with changing his behavior and healing his trauma. It is also all the work he says the drug inspired him to undertake: solo sessions of cognitive-behavioral therapy for anger management, group therapy with other veterans and even meditation&mdashnone of which he thinks would have helped as much if MDMA had not changed something within him. &ldquoMy entire relationship with my environment has changed,&rdquo Reissenweber says. &ldquoI&rsquom learning to enjoy life rather than living on the edge.&rdquo

He says the huge amount of time he has committed&mdash48 hours of therapy with MAPS for the MDMA dosing, plus two years of his own &ldquointegrative&rdquo work following the sessions&mdashis what has made the therapy so effective for him. But that also makes it less realistic for many people. &ldquoHealing my trauma has become a full-time job, and I just don&rsquot know how somebody with PTSD, who has been in Iraq or Afghanistan and is only in their 30s, could undertake this if they have a job and have to provide for their family,&rdquo Reissenweber says.

However time-intensive MDMA therapy may be, or how controversial the drug is, new approaches to PTSD are desperately needed, says Yair Bar-Haim of Tel Aviv University, who has worked with trauma and PTSD for decades but has never done so with MDMA or MAPS. &ldquoTwo thirds of PTSD sufferers do not respond to conventional treatments,&rdquo he says. &ldquoThese results are phenomenal. I have honestly never seen such a successful trial.&rdquo


Problems of definition

The concept of death is a key to human understanding of the phenomenon. [6] There are many scientific approaches and various interpretations of the concept. Additionally, the advent of life-sustaining therapy and the numerous criteria for defining death from both a medical and legal standpoint, have made it difficult to create a single unifying definition.

One of the challenges in defining death is in distinguishing it from life. As a point in time, death would seem to refer to the moment at which life ends. Determining when death has occurred is difficult, as cessation of life functions is often not simultaneous across organ systems. [7] Such determination, therefore, requires drawing precise conceptual boundaries between life and death. This is difficult, due to there being little consensus on how to define life.

It is possible to define life in terms of consciousness. When consciousness ceases, a living organism can be said to have died. One of the flaws in this approach is that there are many organisms that are alive but probably not conscious (for example, single-celled organisms). Another problem is in defining consciousness, which has many different definitions given by modern scientists, psychologists and philosophers. Additionally, many religious traditions, including Abrahamic and Dharmic traditions, hold that death does not (or may not) entail the end of consciousness. In certain cultures, death is more of a process than a single event. It implies a slow shift from one spiritual state to another. [8]

Other definitions for death focus on the character of cessation of something. [9] [ clarification needed ] More specifically, death occurs when a living entity experiences irreversible cessation of all functioning. [10] As it pertains to human life, death is an irreversible process where someone loses their existence as a person. [10]

Historically, attempts to define the exact moment of a human's death have been subjective, or imprecise. Death was once defined as the cessation of heartbeat (cardiac arrest) and of breathing, but the development of CPR and prompt defibrillation have rendered that definition inadequate because breathing and heartbeat can sometimes be restarted. This type of death where circulatory and respiratory arrest happens is known as the circulatory definition of death (DCDD). Proponents of the DCDD believe that this definition is reasonable because a person with permanent loss of circulatory and respiratory function should be considered dead. [11] Critics of this definition state that while cessation of these functions may be permanent, it does not mean the situation is irreversible, because if CPR was applied, the person could be revived. [11] Thus, the arguments for and against the DCDD boil down to a matter of defining the actual words "permanent" and "irreversible," which further complicates the challenge of defining death. Furthermore, events which were causally linked to death in the past no longer kill in all circumstances without a functioning heart or lungs, life can sometimes be sustained with a combination of life support devices, organ transplants and artificial pacemakers.

Today, where a definition of the moment of death is required, doctors and coroners usually turn to "brain death" or "biological death" to define a person as being dead people are considered dead when the electrical activity in their brain ceases. It is presumed that an end of electrical activity indicates the end of consciousness. Suspension of consciousness must be permanent, and not transient, as occurs during certain sleep stages, and especially a coma. In the case of sleep, EEGs can easily tell the difference.

The category of "brain death" is seen as problematic by some scholars. For instance, Dr. Franklin Miller, senior faculty member at the Department of Bioethics, National Institutes of Health, notes: "By the late 1990s. the equation of brain death with death of the human being was increasingly challenged by scholars, based on evidence regarding the array of biological functioning displayed by patients correctly diagnosed as having this condition who were maintained on mechanical ventilation for substantial periods of time. These patients maintained the ability to sustain circulation and respiration, control temperature, excrete wastes, heal wounds, fight infections and, most dramatically, to gestate fetuses (in the case of pregnant "brain-dead" women)." [12]

While "brain death" is viewed as problematic by some scholars, there are certainly proponents of it that believe this definition of death is the most reasonable for distinguishing life from death. The reasoning behind the support for this definition is that brain death has a set of criteria that is reliable and reproducible. [13] Also, the brain is crucial in determining our identity or who we are as human beings. The distinction should be made that "brain death" cannot be equated with one who is in a vegetative state or coma, in that the former situation describes a state that is beyond recovery. [13]

Those people maintaining that only the neo-cortex of the brain is necessary for consciousness sometimes argue that only electrical activity should be considered when defining death. Eventually it is possible that the criterion for death will be the permanent and irreversible loss of cognitive function, as evidenced by the death of the cerebral cortex. All hope of recovering human thought and personality is then gone given current and foreseeable medical technology. At present, in most places the more conservative definition of death – irreversible cessation of electrical activity in the whole brain, as opposed to just in the neo-cortex – has been adopted (for example the Uniform Determination Of Death Act in the United States). In 2005, the Terri Schiavo case brought the question of brain death and artificial sustenance to the front of American politics.

Even by whole-brain criteria, the determination of brain death can be complicated. EEGs can detect spurious electrical impulses, while certain drugs, hypoglycemia, hypoxia, or hypothermia can suppress or even stop brain activity on a temporary basis. Because of this, hospitals have protocols for determining brain death involving EEGs at widely separated intervals under defined conditions.

In the past, adoption of this whole-brain definition was a conclusion of the President's Commission for the Study of Ethical Problems in Medicine and Biomedical and Behavioral Research in 1980. [14] They concluded that this approach to defining death sufficed in reaching a uniform definition nationwide. A multitude of reasons were presented to support this definition including: uniformity of standards in law for establishing death consumption of a family's fiscal resources for artificial life support and legal establishment for equating brain death with death in order to proceed with organ donation. [15]

Aside from the issue of support of or dispute against brain death, there is another inherent problem in this categorical definition: the variability of its application in medical practice. In 1995, the American Academy of Neurology (AAN), established a set of criteria that became the medical standard for diagnosing neurologic death. At that time, three clinical features had to be satisfied in order to determine "irreversible cessation" of the total brain including: coma with clear etiology, cessation of breathing, and lack of brainstem reflexes. [16] This set of criteria was then updated again most recently in 2010, but substantial discrepancies still remain across hospitals and medical specialties. [16]

The problem of defining death is especially imperative as it pertains to the dead donor rule, which could be understood as one of the following interpretations of the rule: there must be an official declaration of death in a person before starting organ procurement or that organ procurement cannot result in death of the donor. [11] A great deal of controversy has surrounded the definition of death and the dead donor rule. Advocates of the rule believe the rule is legitimate in protecting organ donors while also countering against any moral or legal objection to organ procurement. Critics, on the other hand, believe that the rule does not uphold the best interests of the donors and that the rule does not effectively promote organ donation. [11]


Signs of death or strong indications that a warm-blooded animal is no longer alive are:

The stages that follow after death are:

  • Pallor mortis, paleness which happens in the 15–120 minutes after death
  • Algor mortis, the reduction in body temperature following death. This is generally a steady decline until matching ambient temperature
  • Rigor mortis, the limbs of the corpse become stiff (Latin rigor) and difficult to move or manipulate
  • Livor mortis, a settling of the blood in the lower (dependent) portion of the body , the beginning signs of decomposition , the reduction into simpler forms of matter, accompanied by a strong, unpleasant odor. , the end of decomposition, where all soft tissues have decomposed, leaving only the skeleton. , the natural preservation of the skeletal remains formed over a very long period


The death of a person has legal consequences that may vary between different jurisdictions. A death certificate is issued in most jurisdictions, either by a doctor, or by an administrative office upon presentation of a doctor's declaration of death.

Corpses drown immediately after death

Immediately after death, whether the cause is drowning or otherwise, a corpse will sink to the bottom. We don&rsquot sink to the bottom when we&rsquore alive because of the air in our lungs. Our body&rsquos density is different from sea water (the case is different for freshwater), so it&rsquos easier for someone to float, especially if that water is the Dead Sea!

When one drowns, the struggle usually knocks all the air from the lungs, allowing them to fill with water. This causes a drowned corpse to sink to the bottom. The cause of drowning isn&rsquot water in the lungs, but the lack of oxygen, also known as asphyxiation.

If a corpse falls into the water face-first, it might remain floating for longer since the air in the lungs won&rsquot have a chance to escape.

Immediately after death, the body will begin to decompose. It starts with pallor mortis, followed by algor mortis, rigor mortis and livor mortis. In these stages, due to oxygen depletion, cells begin to die and break down which results in a host of physical changes, such as change in pH, color of the skin, and rigidity of the body.

After these initial 4 stages, which occur in the first 24 to 48 hours post-mortem (after death), the body begins to undergo putrefaction. This is the stage where external decomposers begin to break down the body.

Ardi Surrounded by Family

The Ardipithecus ramidus fossils were discovered in Ethiopia's harsh Afar desert at a site called Aramis in the Middle Awash region, just 46 miles (74 kilometers) from where Lucy's species, Australopithecus afarensis, was found in 1974. Radiometric dating of two layers of volcanic ash that tightly sandwiched the fossil deposits revealed that Ardi lived 4.4 million years ago.

Older hominid fossils have been uncovered, including a skull from Chad at least six million years old and some more fragmentary, slightly younger remains from Kenya and nearby in the Middle Awash.

While important, however, none of those earlier fossils are nearly as revealing as the newly announced remains, which in addition to Ardi's partial skeleton include bones representing at least 36 other individuals.

"All of a sudden you've got fingers and toes and arms and legs and heads and teeth," said Tim White of the University of California, Berkeley, who co-directed the work with Berhane Asfaw, a paleoanthropologist and former director of the National Museum of Ethiopia, and Giday WoldeGabriel, a geologist at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico.

"That allows you to do something you can't do with isolated specimens," White said. "It allows you to do biology."

Parasites - Scabies

Human scabies is caused by an infestation of the skin by the human itch mite (Sarcoptes scabiei var. hominis). The microscopic scabies mite burrows into the upper layer of the skin where it lives and lays its eggs. The most common symptoms of scabies are intense itching and a pimple-like skin rash. The scabies mite usually is spread by direct, prolonged, skin-to-skin contact with a person who has scabies.Scabies occurs worldwide and affects people of all races and social classes. Scabies can spread rapidly under crowded conditions where close body contact is frequent. Institutions such as nursing homes, extended-care facilities, and prisons are often sites of scabies outbreaks.

Images: Sarcoptes scabiei mites in a skin scraping, stained with lactophenol cotton-blue. (Credit: DPDx)