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Epilepsy

22 January 2018

'Dead' man snores back to life right before his autopsy

Medical professionals believed a Spanish man was dead, but a guard noticed snoring and movement on the autopsy table.

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A Spanish man, who was declared dead by three medical professionals, began snoring as his autopsy was about to begin.

LiveScience reports that the 29-year-old prisoner, found unconscious in his cell, was believed to be dead.

A few hours later, Gonzalo Montoya Jiménez was lying on the autopsy table with guide marks on his body to show forensic doctors where to cut. Fortunately, however, Jiménez started to snore, which ultimately saved him.

Three doctors signed death certificate

Jiménez's family cannot believe that he had been declared dead by three doctors. Family representatives told Spanish publication La Voz de Asturias they think one doctor had made the declaration and that the two other doctors just signed the certificate without doing an examination.

The representatives add that there were several errors on the part of the authorities involved and that they plan to seek advice from a lawyer.

However, a prison official also told La Voz that all the signs pointed to Jiménez being clinically dead. The official told the publication that Jiménez had missed roll call and when they found him in his prison cell, he was blue.

Snoring saved his life

Jiménez's body was authorised to be transferred to a forensic institution where the guard on duty began hearing snoring sounds and discovered that Jiménez was moving.

Jiménez was subsequently admitted to the Universal Central Hospital of Asturias and his family told La Voz that he suffered from epileptic attacks and that it's possible that he had not been taking his medication regularly.

While in hospital, doctors thought that Jiménez may have lacked oxygen in the brain, but since the incident, he's been talking and it seems his memory isn't affected, which are all good signs.

No certain answers

It isn't easy for doctors and other health professionals to declare whether someone is dead. When declaring death, health professionals check if it's cardiac death – when the heart stops beating, or if it's brain death – when the electric or neurological activity in the brain stops.

At this point, there has been much speculation around how this could have happened, but there are no certain answers. LiveScience shared a possibility: occasionally people with epilepsy suffer from a condition known as catalepsy.

When suffering from catalepsy, the person goes into a trance-like state, their muscles become rigid and they do not respond to any stimuli.

There have been several other cases where people have "risen" from the dead. The Independent recently reported on a 28-year-old Peruvian man who was declared dead after having a dental procedure.

Share your experience

At his wake, people thought they could see his rib-cage moving, as if he were breathing, and after the doctor was called, they discovered that he was showing vital signs and was taken to hospital.

Another case was 79-year-old American man, who woke up in a body bag just before he was meant to be embalmed. The man was thought dead because his pacemaker had stopped working.

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Image credit: iStock