What Happens to the Human Body When We Die?
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What Happens to the Human Body When We Die?

What happens to the human body when we die? Exactly what are the processes that lead to death? This article looks at the major components of death, such as decreased circulation, increased sleeping periods, confusion, disorientation, lack of appetite, loss of control, brain stem activity and rigor mortis and explains each one in detail.

Most people will die in bed and the majority of those who don't will end up dying on the lavatory, because during major traumas such as heart attacks, the initial urge is for the patient to need the toilet. Here is a brief guide as to what happens to the human body shortly before and after death occurs:

The Skin Cools

Firstly, their skin will get cold and clammy as the dying person’s circulatory system begins to stop functioning. This process will start at the extremities such as the fingertips and toes and, as time goes on, the entire body will begin to feel cold to the touch as blood flow decreases and then ceases entirely.

Increased sleeping periods

As the body slowly prepares to shut down, the dying person will sleep for more protracted periods of time. This is partly due to the sluggish blood circulation, the lack of oxygen and a decreased breathing rate. As time goes on it will become increasingly difficult for the patient to stay conscious as one by one their organs shut down.

Lack of appetite

Before death occurs, the body stops requiring food due to the fact that it is not functioning properly. A dying patient often stops eating several days before death.

Confusion and disorientation

Increased toxins are often floating around the body shortly before death due to the body’s inability to flush them away. Oxygen deprivation and decreased circulation will deprive the brain of its vital components to function properly. When the brain becomes starved of oxygen it will be unable to process information in the usual way and this is why it is suspected that many dying people have been witnessed speaking with deceased loved ones and religious figures shortly before they pass away.

Loss of control

Both bladder and bowel control will be lost as death occurs. This happens when the body’s muscles start to relax and as vital organs, such as the kidneys and liver begin to shut down. Before death, however, due to decreased appetite and lack of movement, there can be long periods of time where the patient doesn’t need to use the bathroom.

Brainstem Activity

A doctor will look for brainstem activity. That’s the ‘computer’ part of the brain where all of the body’s vital functions are controlled. If that part of the brain isn’t functioning, then for all intents and purposes the person inside the body isn’t able to return to the living.

Rigor Mortis

This is when the body stiffens a few hours after death. It is caused by a chemical change in the muscles and will make the body very difficult to move or manipulate. Warm climates and strenuous physical exercise can speed up the process of rigor mortis. Normally the body will reach the peak of rigor mortis 12 hours after death. 

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Comments (9)

Interesting and well-written brief cycle of events that occur around time of death.

I have a teary-eyes remembering my dad, on the first day - he loss appetite and do not accepts food, that's the time that I was alarmed, then he sleeps a lot...very true contents, thanks Ann.

It's like reading Patricia Cornwell. Good job, Anne.

very interesting thank you

Very informative and this is not an easy subject. Very well written as usual, thank you Ann and bravo! 

Very interesting...

Ann, interesting article on livitity. Peace Jaz

Great article! So we will probably die on the lavatory if we are not in bed, who knew! Not very glam, but such is death

This is a very well written article on what happens just before and during death.  You have done this thoughtfully and with great care.  A gerat job, Ann.