3 ways to declare someone dead

A while ago a friend who is a fireman told me that unless you are certified medical proffessional you can only legally declare someone dead in 3 cases. One is decapitation, the other is rigor mortis. He didn’t remember the third one.

Any ideas?

P.S. This is in Canada so it might not be a universal standard.

wow, wierd question. why would a non-profession have to declare someone dead? who would he want to declare it to? what would happen if he tried?

Well, presumably if you’re far enough past rigor mortis that there ain’t nothin’ left but a few bones and skull, that’d count?

“He’s dead, Jim.”

That sounds iffy to me. Rigor mortis? How would a layman even recognize rigor mortis? I probably couldn’t. I’ve never touched a dead body, and I imagine there are many people in my situation.

Jacques Kilchoer
Workers of the world, unite! You have nothing to lose but your chains.

I believe the original post refers to a person coming along the scene of an apparently dead body. A firefigher or a police officer isn’t supposed to say, “Hmm, he looks dead, better call the coroner.” He’s supposed to call an ambulance or a doctor where someone with an MD goes and says “Yep, he’s dead.”
If I were in that position (almost dead or looking like I was dead), I’d want someone to doublecheck.

I agree with Jacques; IIRC, rigor mortis is a transient phenomenon that exists for only a few hours. A corpse will return to its limp, flaccid state as decompostion continues.


“Believe those who seek the truth.
Doubt those who find it.” --Andre Gide

3 ways to declare someone dead? Um, lessee…

“You’re dead.”


“Boy, are you ever dead.”

Yep, that’s 3 of 'em.

Quick-N-Dirty Aviation: Trading altitude for airspeed since 1992.

Don’t forget the “kiss of death” can be used to declare someone dead.

“Hoo boy!” he says,
“Now that’s what I call really dead.”

Tell him he’s Dan Quayle’s Running mate.

Can’t get deader than that!

Attention C#3!The inside of your musty head is a exercise wheel;
in which two gerbils, Vanity and Credulity by
name, tussle fruitlessly over the walnut that
represents your banal & pointless existance.

I unprofessionally declare that rigor mortis has set in on this thread.


EMT’s/Firemen/Paramedics/Cops can declare someone dead in the following circumstances:

*Rigor Mortis
*Lividity - this is where a body without a heartbeat lays around too long and all the blood pools into the tissues they are lying on, it creates a dark purple/black color on all surcafes the body is resting on.
*Advanced states of Decomposition

Just add water, it makes it’s own sauce!

A non-professional can declare someone merely dead, but only a coroner can declare them most sincerely dead.

“He’s not dead, he’s only mostly dead.”

Hell, even if a house drops on you, the coroner has to report you most sincerely dead. :wink:

I saw a discussion on this recently, either on here or on a.f.c-a, but can’t find the thread right now. Anyway, it involves the order in which you apply medical/lifesaving measures to people at an accident site or whatever. Apparently there was a case in which an EMT team arrived at an accident site and found two victims; one nearly decapitated and the other still alive. They ignored the one and concentrated their efforts on the other.

The EMTs were sued by the family of the dead person for not rendering emergency aid (like CPR) to the decapitated body on the grounds that they were not qualified to make the decision as to if the person were dead or not. The guidelines were put in place so that rescue teams would not have to waste time on the “obviously” dead and could concentrate on those who still had a chance.

I don’t remember what criteria they finally came up with. I’ll look around some more and see if I can dig up the thread; it’s got to be on Deja somewhere.

“Drink your coffee! Remember, there are people sleeping in China.”

Dennis Matheson — dennis@mountaindiver.com
Hike, Dive, Ski, Climb — www.mountaindiver.com

What if someone is spending the year dead for tax purposes? :slight_smile:

You need Miracle Max to declare you mostly dead.

How about burned to a crisp?
How about washing up on shore, bloated beyond recognition?
How about completely eviscerated? (I love that word)
How about if your heart is on your sleeve…literally?
How about if your brain is up your ass…literally?
How about i fyou still have your head on your body, but you only have half a body?

I can think of many more ways in which a person is unmistakably, unequivocally dead.

I just watched a show on Discovery about how in the old days people were completely paranoid about being buried alive, appaarantly with good cause since there were way too many stories of people “waking up” from being dead just as the casket was about to be lowered into the ground, or pert near. There were a number of coffins which had Rube Goldberg-ish contraptions designed to let the possibly undead signla that they were alive after they’d been put in the ground.

All very creepy if your’e asking me.

This is a non-smoking area. If we see you smoking, we will assume you are on fire and act accordingly.