Death is an inescapable yet fascinating process, and the only ones who can explain that are the ones who deal with it on a daily basis.
Business Insider spoke with Dr. Judy Melinek, CEO of PathologyExpert Inc. and a practicing forensic pathologist in the San Francisco Bay Area, to find out what exactly happens when a person dies.
Melinek, who has performed over 2,500 autopsies in her career, says:
“The first thing that happens when you die is that your heart stops beating and blood flow ceases. Blood then pools in the parts of your body closest to the ground, a process called lividity. Because there is no more blood flow, oxygen-starved tissues stop all metabolic function. Your eyes cloud over, and your muscle fibres lock up in rigour mortis. Your body temperature goes down to match the ambient temperature.
“Eventually, bacteria from the gut and upper respiratory tract enter your bloodstream and cause putrefaction, while your body’s cellular enzymes digest its cells, a process called autolysis. All these processes take time and can be roughly relied upon to estimate the time of death, but not down to the minute as they portray on TV.”
Gruesome — most definitely. Completely natural — yes.
It’s all part of the circle of life, whether we like it or not, so we might as well fight on to live another day.
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