Dying with eyes open

How common is this in real life? I see it all the time in movies I assume because of the shock value. My guess is that the majority of people who die, die after losing consciousness and therefore with eyes shut. What would cause the eyes to remain open? A fade-out type death or an instantaneous one?

My husband (who picks up dead bodies for a living) says that most of the people he picks up have their eyes open. He says that his best guess is that it’s due to muscular reflexes, and the fact that most people don’t die in their sleep. He also says it’s actually quite difficult to get someone’s eyes to stay closed, as muscles tend to remain inflexible after death due to rigor mortis. The tool they used to keep the eyelids closed is similar to a contact lens, only it’s got spikes in it – kind of like the tack strips used for carpeting. The lens goes in and the eyelids are tacked down onto it ensuring they stay closed.

Yeah, it takes muscle contraction to close the eyes. No life, no contraction, your eyes stay open. Breathing and the heart beating works the same way.

Er, suppose I should have mentioned that hubby works for a funeral home.

Not that there aren’t other ways to make a living picking up dead bodies or anything … heh.

Very interesting (in a morbid sort of way)…I saw a show one time about coroners and their work. This woman was oblivious to shock! One man had his face blown off and she tried to manipulate it back together to take a photo of it at the scene. As for funeral work, there are probably many tricks of the trade that no one would dream of…I still say it sounds like interesting work, though not for me. Thanks for the response.

As a nurse, I’ve seen about an equal number die eyes open or shut.
I would venture to guess it has a lot to do with shock. If the body is going into shock, i.e. moving all its vascular energy to the core, then the eyes will probably stay open due to natural contraction, and the opposite will occur if the body dies without shock.
I know that when preserving the eyes with saline-saturated gauze while waiting for the organ harvestor, that the eyes will stay open once opened and the gauze laid upon them and saline poured on.

The harvestor uses little spring clips to widen the eyelids out of the way (like in A Clockwork Orange) and then scalpels around the cornea to pull it out, leaving a dark black hole of liquid (aqueous humor) that looks pretty gruesome, so he or she places a little beige eye cap over the whole eye and closes the lid when done.