Has anyone suffered this, or could they? Perhaps after a wound that pierces their stomach, bullet, bad car accident, buckshot or the like.
Do you mean completely dissolved by their own stomach acid? The answer is that is no because there isn’t enough of it to do that. However, you can die from complications related to stomach acid. That is basically what a peptic ulcer is - a deterioration of the stomach lining leading to a hole in extreme cases. Most people with a stomach ulcer risk serious pain rather than death but the latter can and does occur if the stomach lining is perforated completely.
However, you still won’t see complete dissolving of the abdominal cavity even in those cases. The typical cause of death is severe infection caused by the general failure of the digestive system that leads to the failure of other body systems.
In summary, your stomach does not contain nearly enough stomach acid to dissolve more than a small percentage of your own body and you will die and stop producing new stomach acid well before it gets very far along.
In pancreatitis digestive enzymes can be released (from the pancreas rather than the stomach - it’s the pancreas that makes them) and start digesting the unfortunate patient from the inside out. There is not sufficient amount to reduce the person to a puddle of goo but it most certainly can cause organ damage.
Death from a perforated ulcer used to be very common, although I don’t think the acid itself could kill a person. My guess is that they usually died from sepsis or hemorrhage.
Perforating injuries to the gastrointestinal tract cause acute peritonitis.
Minor localised injury and perforation of the GI tract is likely to be walled off by the inflammatory process and might not result in death even if the person receives no medical care.
Major injury might cause generalised peritonitis. Initially (in the first 1-2 days), this may be chemical (non infective) peritonitis due to peritoneal irritation by gastric juice, bile, pancreatic juice etc. which might fulfill your criteria for being ‘digested’ inside out. But death in these cases will be from hypovolemic shock due to loss of a significant amount of fluid in the inflammatory process, not from the digestive enzymes per se.
After 1-2 days, if the injury wasn’t severe enough to cause significant enzyme leakage and if the person doesn’t receive medical care, infective peritonitis sets in, thanks to the sterile peritoneal cavity being invaded by the rich intestinal flora. Death in these cases may be due to septic shock & multi organ dysfunction syndrome.
Peptic ulcers (especially those on the posterior gastric wall) might cause significant hemorrhage even without perforating the GI wall entirely, if they erode into any significant artery.
Thanks, morbid curiosity satisfied.
When my doctor was arranging investigations for gastic reflux, I was told that an endoscopy was needed to rule out damage that can lead to oesophageal cancer.
Just to cheer you up…
Well, it’s an extreme case, but there are people who have been forced to eat their own body parts, and usually died shortly thereafter. Torture can be so… amusing.
What if I had someone restrained and I periodically drained some acid from them and stored it for later. How long would it take for me to get enough acid to dissolve them?
Daily gastric fluid secretion in a normal person is about 2-3 litres of hydrochloric acid solution with pH between 1 and 2. This is a very wide range, so assuming the hypothetical best (worst for the victim I guess?) case scenario, we get 3 litres of HCl at a pH of 1. If the victim is fed and hydrated properly, and the electrolyte anomaly resulting from draining so much acid corrected continuously, I guess it would take about 50 days to accumulate the 150 odd liters of acid to fill a 55 gallon barrel after dumping an average body in it.
Bear in mind that this is 0.1 molar solution of HCl, far less than the strength available commercially for cleaning purposes. I’m not sure what concentrations/ dilutions were used by murderers like Jeffrey Dahmer for the purpose of ‘dissolving’ their victims’ bodies, but it was a slow and ugly process. The body does not disappear entirely, it forms a messy sludge. Add to that the fact that we’re using a more dilute solution and the situation worsens from massively impractical to probably impossible.