The 3 reasons why you might be declared dead when you’re still alive | The Sun

WAKING up inside your own coffin is a thing of nightmares – and many good horror films.

And for the few unfortunate souls, this grisly film trope becomes a reality.

Just this month, an 82-year-old woman who was pronounced dead at a New York nursing home and was later discovered to be alive by funeral home staff.

Before that, a 66-year-old woman with early-onset dementia was declared dead by a nurse, only to be found gasping for air when funeral home staff unzipped the body bag.

While in medical school, doctors are taught an absence of heart and breath sounds over a period of time, the presence of fixed, dilated pupils, and a failure to respond to any stimulus should mean that the person is deceased.

But in some cases, where death has been confirmed by this process, the patient has shown signs of life afterwards.

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This can be the fault of the doctor and in situations like these -it pays to be thorough.

However, there are some drugs and instances which make an accurate declaration of death slightly harder,

1. Drugs

Drugs used by doctors to sedate people can sometimes reduce responsiveness and slow down breathing and circulation.

This means people who take these drugs can sometimes appear dead, Professor Stephen Hughes, a lecturer in medicine at Anglia Ruskin University said.

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Writing in The Conversation, he said: "Later on, as the drug is cleared from the body, the person may wake up."

Anxiety drugs, diazepam and alprazolam have both caused people to mistakenly be declared dead.

2. Cold water

Immersion in cold water for a prolonged period of time can also lead to the illusion of death because it can slow down the heart rate.

"Doctors are taught that a drowned patient is not proven dead until they have been warmed up," the Professor wrote.

3. Shock

Going into shock and fainting  can also deceive the certifying doctor into thinking someone has died before their time, he explained.

The process of fainting triggers the vagus nerve – a major communications link between the brain and the body – which slows down the heart and reduces blood flow.

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