Friday, December 10, 2010

Of beheadings

The human body fascinates me. And I don't mean in the, yeah-sure-it-does-because-she-writes-erotic-romance-I-betcha-it-interests-her-uh-huh-suuuuure, kinda way. I mean the way it works, functions, feels, moves, is all fascinating. I will often look for Discovery or National Geographic programs to learn aspects of it that intrigue me. You may see some of this in books like Sex Ed when Derek describes to Mina exactly how her body orgasms--the physiological reasons that her body feels what it feels. It's also the reason that when I needed to understand what male orgasm felt like and what things happen in the male anatomy, I went searching for (and found) a hapless guy to interview extensively on the subject.

He was very gracious. *ahem*

Anyway, I was watching a program a couple of days ago about the human brain and what exactly defines the moment of death. This is in light of modern medicine which can revive a stopped heart hours after it quit, which can re-inflate stilled lungs, which can re-stimulate the panicked, toxic cells of the dying brain.

Keep in mind that with open heart surgery patients, the chest is opened, ribs spread from a cut down the sternum (ouuuuuch), the heart is stopped, the lungs are stopped, and the blood is REMOVED from the body into a filtering system for hours while the surgeons work. Okay? So that's kind of like dead, but the brain is still living and eventually the heart is restarted with the returned blood, and the lungs are pumped and the dude gets sewn up and yada yada yada.

So it was back in the French Revolution when two scientists were debating the point of death and the existence of a soul. One of the scientists was arrested and scheduled for a beheading. The other scientist and he decided to use the guillotine as an experiment to see if the soul would linger in the body (at this time, soul equated to life). They agreed that when the guy was beheaded, he should blink his eyes rapidly for as long as he could.

The day came, the scientist was beheaded, and the other scientist ran to the basket and lifted his friend's head. The head continued to blink for eleven seconds!

You may have also heard the story of Queen Mary who was saying her rosary at the time of her beheading. Her head rolled away and her lips continued the prayer for several seconds following.

Is it the command to the brain that completes as much of its task as possible before the function ceases? Is it life? Is it because those are normal human actions, or frequently repeated actions that the body just continues to do out of a learned response? Or, is it life?

What really got to me about this program, was what one doctor said after telling the story about the scientists... this doctor of modern medicine studies cerebral neurology specifically. He said, it would take several seconds for the brain to be without the required oxygen to continue it's normal functions. Therefore, it certainly makes sense to him that the head would still be conscious until the oxygen was depleted!

OMG! They could still be ALIVE after a beheading, trying to figure out why their face hit a basket! They could still HEAR, SMELL, TASTE that bloody basket for a few seconds before their brains die!!! I would imagine pain isn't an issue since nerve centers are mostly severed and because, like a shark attack that puts a body in a state of shock therefore stalling any sensation of immediate pain, they probably don't feel the blade slice.

But OMG!!! Putting my imagination in their shoes? How many people suffered those last few seconds of confusion and putrification?

And this, my friends, is how I leave you for the weekend. You're welcome.


Amber Skyze said...

Ummm...hmmmm. Yeah, strange but interesting. :)

Have a great weekend.

D.L. said...

I don't know if this post is terrifying, informative, or just plain awesome. (I'm kinda going with awesome) The whole topic reminds me of the crazy plot of the most recent X-files movie, so it's safe to say it's an odd topic to discuss.

Molly Daniels said...

I'm going to show this post to my horror author friends. Maybe they can do something with it...(shudders)

Mia Watts said...

LOL!! DL I'm glad you're with me on this. It's not like something you'd want to dwell on, but geez! that kind of information is just so horrifically new, that I couldn't get over it this many days since seeing it! I mean, think of the smell of old blood, the stickiness of it on suddenly seemingly rising up to smash with wicker-like punishment on your cheek and eyebrow. Imagine processing the irony/coppery taste and the brain not making sense of it... suddenly unable to move your limbs to push it away. The sounds of people cheering as you realize they are celebrating your immediate death, and then... it's gone.

Is there sorrow? Is there the sudden desire to reach for your head and hold it on, does your brain even process that far on 11 seconds even though your hands won't respond? Where does the seat of your identity live and does it go with the head to wonder at the vacancy of your body?

Ooops, getting a little carried away. LOL. You can see why it's fascinating though, right?

@Amber-You too, honey! Thanks for stopping over for my questionable post. :)

@Molly-DEFINITELY share it and then tell me what they think. I'd love to know.

Julia Rachel Barrett said...

Oh. My. God. Yes. This is indeed something that has always bothered me. I think it's kinder to shoot people, but then, since your nerves have been severed, you probably don't feel anything except the knowledge of your impending death. Ack. Double Ack.