• Question: if someone had their head chopped off, would they be able to do anything or would they die instantly? if so how long for?

    Asked by lucyc to Meeks, Pete, Stephen, Steve, Tom on 22 Jun 2010 in Categories: .
    • Photo: Stephen Curry

      Stephen Curry answered on 21 Jun 2010:

      A rather gruesome question Lucy. You’re not sitting on death row, I hope!

      I have heard that chickens can live for quite a long time after their heads are cut off but don’t know if there is any evidence of this for humans.

      I’m speculating but probably the cleanest and quickest way to be decapitated was by guillotine (invented in France by Dr Guillotne – I kid you not). But I don’t recall ever hearing stories about the body of the executed prisoner doing anything apart from slumping to the ground once the blade had dropped. So think death is pretty rapid. The body would suffer huge blood loss from the severed arteries (must have been quite a job to clean up) and the heart would stop within seconds.

    • Photo: Marieke Navin

      Marieke Navin answered on 22 Jun 2010:

      Hi Lucy – what a question!! I think you’d be pretty toasted if you had your head chopped off. Have you read any of Phillipa Gregory’s books about the wives of Henry VIII? (e.g. the other boleyn girl – it is FANTASTIC) In one of those books the body carries on running around after its head has been lopped…The loss of blood would be so fast I don’t reckon you’d have long!

    • Photo: Tom Hartley

      Tom Hartley answered on 22 Jun 2010:

      Hi Lucy.

      Unusually I found this question too grim to research in detail – I just didn’t want to go there. So this is just a guess. I think the person would lose consciousness immediately, but if this did not happen I think they might experience dizziness, pain and confusion for a few moments before blacking out. I think it would be almost impossible to tell whether someone had lost consciousness, as they would be unable to speak and any movements they made might be reflexes.