10 Bodily Functions That Continue After Death
Death doesn't need to stop you from doing all the things you enjoy, as long as the things ...
By the way, this post is not for the weak of stomach.
10. Nail and hair growth (by technicality)
This is a technical function, not an actual function. The body doesn't produce more hair and nail tissue, but both of these things do 'grow,' in the days after death. What actually happens is the skin loses moisture (although cosmetics companies are probably hard at work making a cream for that) and pulls back, exposing more hair and making nails seem longer. Since you do measure the length of hair and nails from the point where they meet the skin to the tip of the hair, the hair does 'grow'.
9. Brain activity (with drugs)
One of the side effects of modern technology is a blurring of the time between life and death. The brain can be almost completely gone, but the heart can keep pumping. If the heart is stopped for a minute, there's no breathing, and the person was dying anyway, most doctors just pronounce people dead while their brain is technically still alive for the next few minutes. The brain's cells spend those minutes scrambling for the oxygen and nutrients they need to stay alive - to the point where they often damage themselves irreparably even if the heart starts up again. Those minutes before the damage is too extensive could be extended, with the right drugs and under the right circumstances, to days. Ideally, this would give doctors a chance to save you, but it's not guaranteed. I know what most of you are thinking, "What fun! The biggest problem I had with dying is that it could be quick and painless, with no chance that my living brain is stuck inside a corpse for days on end." Well, now you don't have to worry about that.
8. Skin cell growth
This is another function of different parts of the body dying at different rates. While loss of blood circulation can kill the brain in minutes, other cells are not as in need of constant care. Skin cells, which are used to living on the outskirts of the body and grabbing what they can through osmosis, can stay alive for days. Its a good thing they don't have brains, or I'd feel sorry for them, the poor doomed things.
Peeing, we think, is a voluntary function. And we're mostly right, except if something's really funny. Not-peeing, though, is not a voluntary function. We never have to think about it, because a certain part of the brain is always in charge of it. This is the same part that's involved in regulating a person's breathing and heartbeat, which is one of the reasons people tend to pee involuntarily if they're drunk. The part of the brain that keeps the urinary sphincter closed is inhibited. (More alcohol will shut down the part that regulate breathing and heart function, which is one of the reasons too much alcohol is dangerous.) Although rigor mortis stiffens the muscles, it doesn't set in until hours after death. Just after death, muscles relax, causing people to urinate after death.
We all know that in times of stress the body eliminates waste, often in front of people or on camera. The body relaxes certain muscles and things just . . . progress. In the case of dead bodies, the whole thing is helped along by the gas that's produced inside the body. This can happen hours after death. Hours. Considering fetuses can also poop in the womb (it's true!), this may be both the first and last thing we do in life. Puts things in perspective, doesn't it?
It turns out that when you die, bot only are you expelling stuff, you're actively making more. Or, at least, something is making more. We forget that we share our bodies with tons of other creatures, many of them beneficial. The bacteria inside your gut don't die just because you do. While plenty of them are parasitic, some of them are great aids to digestion, and do part of the work for us. They keep right on chugging, even when we're good and dead. Others eat into the lining of our intestines, making more of that gas that repulsed us all in section six, which pushes things along.
4. Erections and Ejaculation
When the heart stops forcing the blood around the body, it pools in whatever area is lowest. Sometimes people die standing up and sometimes people die lying face down. I think everyone here has enough spatial reasoning to understand what kind of blood pooling that would encourage. Meanwhile, for all that talk of relaxing muscles after death, it doesn't last forever. Certain types of muscle cells are activated by calcium ions. After activation, the cells expend energy putting the calcium ions back outside the cell. After death, the membranes become more permeable to calcium and the cells don't expend as much energy to push the ions out, so the muscles contract. This does lead to rigor mortis and can lead to ejaculation. It's real. It happens. Now let's never think of it again.
Via How Stuff Works, Clean Up Blog, Time, 2 Spare, About.com, and All Nurses.