Can you describe the minutes before death

Death sign

1. The most important things in a nutshell

Various features (signs of death) signal that death has occurred. Respiratory arrest and rigid pupils are considered "unsafe" signs of death. "Safe" signs are rigor mortis and corpse marks. The sure signs can be observed after a period of 30 minutes to 2 hours after the actual death.

2. Stages of death

The dying process lasts for several hours, as individual body cells can be active well beyond death.

  • The clinical death is characterized by respiratory and circulatory arrest.
  • The brain death is characterized by the irreversible failure of all brain functions.
  • The biological death is marked by the end of all organ and cell functions.

In addition to these clinical or "uncertain" signs of death, there are rigid pupils, cooling of the skin, and skin pallor. The individual cells begin to die, with the brain cells being the first to die. A bowel movement can occur up to about 30 minutes after death. For a few hours there may be supravital (= beyond death) muscle reactions, e.g. in the eyelids, mouth or hands.

3. Sure signs of death

In order to determine the occurrence of death, the sure sign of death occur:

  • Rigor mortis
    It begins about 2 hours after death at the temporomandibular joint, slowly moving from the upper extremities to the lower limbs. The fully pronounced rigidity is reached after 6 to 8 hours, after about 2 to 3 days it slowly dissolves again.
  • Dead spots (livores)
    They appear after about 30 minutes. It is discoloration caused by the accumulation of blood in individual parts of the body. In the first few hours they can still be pushed away, after about 24 hours they cannot be pushed away.
  • Body decomposition (autolysis)
    Depending on external influences (temperature, oxygen), it begins after about 2 days. There is no risk of infection or poisoning through skin contact or inhalation. So it is by no means dangerous to stroke the dead man's face again or to hold his hand. Bacteria and toxins could only be transmitted through open injuries or the mouth.

4. Related links

Accompaniment in the dying process

End-of-life care facilities

After death> say goodbye

After death> organizational matters

Forms of funeral and funeral parlors