You’ve heard people say that the only things certain about life are death and taxes. Some people complain that taxes are more complicated, but that’s definitely not true at all. The human death process is very complex, and it gives us the capacity to gain a deep understanding of the way we live our lives and the many things we take for granted. Very few people truly comprehend what happens to the body during death so today we will cover what actually happens.
Death isn’t something that happens instantaneously. There are actually three stages in death. Clinically speaking, though, death is when your respiratory system shuts down and your heart stops beating. This stage of death can be reversible. Biological death is when your brain no longer has electrical activity. You’re considered brain dead and you’ll never come back. Molecular death is when your body’s cell begin to break down, and a brand new process begins.
When the cells in your body begin to die, certain enzymes are released. The enzymes attract fungi and bacteria from the surrounding environment. The organisms decompose the tissue, while producing gases with horrible odors. 30 different chemical compounds are released from the body, and they all smell differently. External organisms aren’t the only things that help the body decompose.
If you’re familiar with human anatomy, then you understand that a large amount of digestion-helping bacteria live your gut. As soon as you die, there is no immune system to keep these bacteria in line, so they can do whatever they want. The bacteria begin to multiply and spread and assist in the decomposition process. If you happen to see a dead body move, it’s not the bacteria doing it.
As we said before, death isn’t instantaneous. The parts of your body don’t die at the same time. For example, the brain dies before the rest of the cells and organs of the nervous system. And because there is no brain to control nerve activity, it’s quite possible to catch a body randomly twitch or spasm, before rigor mortis sets in, of course. This also makes it a little possible to look younger.
The stiffening of dead tissue is called rigor mortis. But before this begins, every one of your muscles actually relaxes, including your facial muscles. It’s actually the tension of the muscles that causes people to have wrinkles, especially around the forehead and mouth. So when someone dies, they tend to look less wrinkly. But death also causes the body to be more incontinent.
Because your entire body is relaxing, there tends to be a lot of gross things going on. The muscles that usually help keep the bodily fluids in place are no longer there, which means the dams are let loose. The body’s feces, urine, and noxious gasses will be released, which is unfortunate for anyone witnessing it. But that’s not exactly the most embarrassing part of death for men.
As soon as the heart stops beating, there’s no longer blood circulating throughout the body. That’s when gravity gets to work and settles and pools at the lowest parts of the body. For a man who died face down, this could cause a rigid state his male private part to occur. To make things a little worse, bodily fluids could actually leak out. You may think that’s bad, but have you ever heard a dead body moan?
It’s pretty common for hospital workers to report the dead bodies moaning or breathing. Rigor mortis causes all of the muscles to stiffen, including the vocal chords. Chemicals are released during the decomposition process, which produce gas. In order for the gasses to travel from the stomach to the mouth, they have to pass through the vocal chords, which can create unholy sounds. While all this is going on, there are some cells still trying to hold on.
After biological death occurs, most of the body’s cell will stop working, but some can hold on for up to two days! Because skin cells come into contact with the outside environment, they’re able to take nutrients out of the atmosphere through a process called osmosis, which gives them a bit of life before they eventually die. The rest is up to your loved ones.
Every culture has a different way they dispose of dead bodies. People are typically buried or cremated in western civilizations. The ancient Egyptians would mummify their dead, and some cultures of the sea would drop them off in the ocean. Some of today’s religions have a specific way that they place a body for eternal slumber, which would depend on the dead person’s ability to reach the afterlife. That is unless a medical examiner is still trying to determine a person’s cause of death.
They’re not done with every single body, but autopsies are commonly performed in order to determine a cause of death. The medical examiner will thoroughly examine the outside of the body, then cut it open to remove the organs for further discovery. Then, the examiner puts everything inside and sews the body up, and the body is released to loved ones. Some people, though, have a say to where their organs go after death.
Many western societies take part in the practice of donating organs. People can make the choice on whether they want to donate their organs after death, like their lungs, bones, kidneys, skin, and parts of their eyes. A lot people look at it like they’re continuing to live by helping another person live. People can also choose to donate their body to science.
Some people choose to have their body donated to hospitals to be practiced on by medical students. Some of the bodies are used to practice certain procedures and others are used to study the human anatomy. Some people have rare or unique conditions and their bodies are used for medical research. That might be bad, but it’s better than looking like a shrunken head.
Some people say that the hair and nails will continue to grow after the body dies, but that’s not true. 60% of the human body is water. After death, all of the water leaves the body, causing it to shrivel up and dry as time passes. It may look like the hair and nails are longer, but the body is just getting smaller. Eventually, the entire body will disappear, unless it becomes a fossil, of course.
Bones decay much slower than the rest of the body. Sometimes, though, they don’t decay at all. In rare cases, water will seep in the pores of the bones, and slowly create crystals that harden the bones. This process is called petrification and it’s a type of fossilization. Because of this incredible process, we’ve been able to find human bodies that are tens of thousands of years old.