Monday, February 21, 2011

Medical Mondays: A Shocking Thing Happened...


Happy Monday to all. This week's Medical Monday question comes from J.C. Martin. She asks:

"In one of my WIPs, a guy gets electrocuted in the bathtub. What would the body look like? Would there be blisters? Would the hair be frizzy if his head is out of the water? Would there be a smell of burnt flesh in the air? And if the man was wearing some metal jewelery that was also unsubmerged, would it burn a mark on his skin?"

Okay, well forensics is not my area of expertise, so I had to do a bit of research for this answer. I'll also qualify this answer with the fact that though I got an A in physics, I hated it. So I forgot it as quickly as possible. Hence, my physics is pretty rusty right now.

So in a bathtub-electrocution scenario, an electrical appliance falling into a tub will cause an electrical current that will want to get grounded to the earth. The current will go through the water (pure water itself isn't a great conductor, but becomes good when mixed with minerals from Poor Victim's salty skin, or if the water is heavily mineralized to begin with).

Poor Victim isn't a great conductor either, but in water, his skin's conductivity increases. So the current goes through the water, through Poor Victim, and boom. He's electrocuted. Now, it's not a huge shock, but he probably can't get out of the tub. And if the electrical appliance doesn't shut off, the current continues.

How will Poor Victim die? The current, if running through his chest (say, submerged below the waterline) may cause his heart to fibrillate and eventually stop. That's death possibility #1.

He also might be stunned enough that he won't be able to get out of the tub, slip under, and drown. That's death possibility #2.

What would the coroner find? Possibly the following:
  • blistering on the body
  • no obvious entrance and exit electrical wound (often called joule marks), as the whole body was conducting electricity. Unless--Poor Victim had touched a metal faucet and the exit occurred that way.
  • No hair frizziness. That's more often seen in hi voltage accidents.
  • No jewelry burns, same as the hair stuff.
  • A pale colored line, possibly with blisters, around the body at the water level ("border-zone-phenomenon")
  • No burned flesh smell)
  • +/- Evidence of drowning (water in the lung)
  • blood pooling on the lower parts of the body
Here are a few references to my research. Again, if you've done research on this and have info to add (or corrections) please, have at it!
And I used Wikipedia to brush up on my amps, currents, volts, resistances, electric shocks...

Have a shocking Monday.
Er. On second thought, don't!

Please keep in mind this post is for writing purposes only and is not to be construed as medical advice, or homicidal advice, yeesh.

If you've got a fictional medical question, let me know! Post below or email me at
All I ask is that you become a follower and post a link on your blog when I post your answer.
Also, don't forget to check out Mental Health Mondays at Laura's Blog and Sarah Fine's The Strangest Situation!

55 comments:

Jess said...

"Have a shocking Monday"--Ha, ha :)

Laura Pauling said...

I thought stuff like that only happens in soap operas? I've never even heard of it happening in real life but I'm sure it does. Thanks for the research!

Liza said...

Another intriguing Monday tidbit. I would never thought of drowning.

salarsenッ said...

Ooh, a bit gruesome this morn. LOL It's great that you did research. You're efforts are awesome.

Sarah said...

Thoroughly done, Lydia. Whoa. And I'm like you--no matter how hard I tried to like physics, I just couldn't do it.

B.E. Sanderson said...

You really sparked the imagination with that post. (sorry, i couldn't help myself)

Carol Kilgore said...

Great question and great answer. Thanks for doing all the research. How horrible to be aware of what's going on and unable to do anything about it. Gives me goosebumps.

Meredith said...

Ugh, how awful. I hate getting tiny shocks--getting electrocuted is one of my worst fears!

Heather Hellmann said...

Yikes! That made me shiver. Interesting stuff.

LTM said...

wow! So it sounds like you won't necessarily die from dropping the toaster in the bathtub? Or you could actually survive if the toaster comes unplugged or you manage to get out...

This is great. Thanks, LK~ :o) <3

Munk said...

Modern homes in the US are required to install ground fault circuit interrupt (GFCI) outlets near water sources, bathrooms, kitchens, etc... If a little as 50 milliamperes aren't seen at the return, the circuit will shut down. The whole process can take no longer than 30 milliseconds. You should check my numbers, but the devices are designed to protect us from accidental death by electrocution.
So, if you want to kill someone, and you want the electricity to put on a light show, make sure you have eliminated all the pesky safety measures.

David Powers King said...

What a shocking post!

Research is the key when trying to learn something that you don't know about. It's amazing what you can find online, and somewhat scary. Nice find and good answers, Lydia.

erinjade said...

i'm catching up on the blogosphere, because i've been out of the loop, and i just wanted to say - all great posts over the last week! :)

Melissa said...

The picture you drew made me spit out my water on the computer today. Which..luckily for me, didn't cause me to be electrocuted!!!

Connie said...

I know someone who survived a bathtub electrocution (is it still called an electrocution if the person survives?). But it did alter her personality and she had odd health problems for the rest of her life.

Ann Best said...

This is very interesting. I've been watching the A Touch of Frost (British) series, and there are some drownings in it. I'm now curious to re-watch and notice how the bodies look!
Ann Best, Author @ Long Journey Home

jbchicoine said...

For some strange reason, I've always wondered about that...hmmm...

Bossy Betty said...

I found this incredibly interesting! (Hummmm....what does that say about me?)

Olga said...

LOL! Have a shocking Monday.
By the way it can be really helpful for detective writers.

Roland D. Yeomans said...

What lovely imagery this early in the morning for me. Showers are definitely the way to go -- unless you trip and fall through the glass shower doors. Great. I did it to myself this time with the imagery this time! Have a calm, soothing Monday! No shocks allowed. Roland

Tony Benson said...

I must confess I hadn't thought of asking the question, but the answer is fascinating. Your Medical Monday is a great resource. Thanks for an interesting post.

Jai Joshi said...

This got me all queasy and nervous. I'd hate to be electrocuted. Glad there's no burned smell though. That would make a bad situation even worse.

Jai

Margo Benson said...

Great question and great answer - I enjoyed this post, although I'm not sure that I should have!

Old Kitty said...

Ok. I promise to never ever have toast in the bathroom!

Oh how gruesome but so so informative!! Thank you Lydia Kang!!! Take care
x

Lisa said...

I love these! Since I can't use this in my WIP, I'm going to look for a way to work it into a conversation in the next week (then I will look extremely knowledgeable and also extremely morbid!)

Mei said...

You sure it will work... don't like the feel out from the loop again! :-) Which cookbook do you use to get the recipe from?

Jemi Fraser said...

I always wondered about the current - that sounds odd, but I've read a lot of mysteries!! - and how it would enter/exit. Thanks for the info!

Nas Dean said...

Thanks for the information. As usual it was great learning something new.

To my knowledge if a person is in the process of being electrocuted, we should use wood to pull him or take the wire away. Not to ever use your hand as you will also be shocked.

Happily Cheesy said...

Fascinating. Gosh I hope I don't die in my tub.

Colene Murphy said...

Wow, so people don't just automatically die that way? Theoretically, if they did start to fibrillate, and had a paramedic handy they would live? Interesting. Great info! I had no idea there would be so little on the body from something like that!

Chris Phillips said...

i'm pretty sure munk is correct. i recall seeing a crime show where someone glued the reset button on an outlet into place to bypass it.

Ann said...

Well now if I ever need a scene that calls for electrocuting someone in bathtub I know the facts. Thank you.

M Pax said...

I always find your medical mondays so fascinating. The things I learn! :D

Karen Lange said...

Oh my, what a way to go. Always learn something new on Monday...:)

Clarissa Draper said...

Really great post. Thank you.

J.C. Martin said...

Thank you for the answer! Really helpful! Wonder what it says about me to dream up such deaths on my characters? :)

Ciara said...

Great post. Funny one liner at the end. :)

Melissa Bradley said...

Very interesting information. Not that I intend any nefarious activities with it. :)

Heather said...

So not death by shocking but by drowning or defib. Very interesting! Thanks for sharing this one!

Nick Thomas said...

Death by wet toaster - love it

The Survival Mama said...

wow....what a way to start a monday. Poor guy!!

and what a great find for me!

Swinging by to say hi from the blogfest, and following to make sure I don't miss anything good from here on out!!
The Survival Mama

lbdiamond said...

How electrifying!

The Words Crafter said...

OOoooo, this reminded me of a mythbusters episode. Know what's more powerful than a toaster, hairdryer, radio, or even a tv? An iron!!!!

Gruesome and interesting post!

Jonene Ficklin said...

I think I'll leave my toaster in the kitchen next time I take a bath! : ) Thanks for the great info!

Susan Fields said...

Another great Medical Monday - thanks Lydia!

Rachna Chhabria said...

Another great monday post. I found it interesting, Lydia.

The Red Angel said...

Very informative and entertaining, as always! :) I took Forensics in high school and I found it really interesting...especially since we had CSI Fridays. :D haha

~TRA

http://xtheredangelx.blogspot.com

Lisa Gail Green said...

I find that fascinating. Sad huh? But seriously, I never would have known that. That's why I love this feature on your blog.

alexia said...

Wow, this is super entertaining. Really cool that you took the time to research it!

Lenny Lee* said...

hi miss lydia! yikes! i didnt know that could happen for real. good thing mostly i do showers. i couldnt wanna get dead from getting toasted in the tub.
...hugs from lenny

Chantele Sedgwick said...

Interesting post... :) Something to think about though! Nice to meet you fellow crusader! :)

Michelle Teacress said...

For some reason, this makes me think of Buddy the elf when he says, "Shocking" in response to his elf dad telling him that no one believes in Santa anymore. Haha! (I'm laughing at the Elf movie, not the actual shocking info you've shared)

Amanda Borenstadt said...

Fascinating, especially about the water line thing.

SugarScribes said...

Great line, Have a shocking weekend." I actually prosecuted an attempted murder case involving bathtub electrocution. I was very surprised that a victim could survive, but as you stated it is possible if they are able to get out of the tub. In my case a man threw a hairdryer into the tub while his wife was soaking.

That was several years ago and my kids still insist on putting on their rubber sole shoes whenever they blow-dry their hair. They are afraid of the small amounts of water on the bathroom floor.

maham said...

Frameless shower doors are very economical to purchase and hence they can easily be purchased by the average people. They look very delicate and thin apparently and thus many people are afraid that they would easily break. However the fact is that they are much more strong, thick, and durable than the ordinary glass and this makes their maintenance easier.
Frameless Shower Door

 
ALL CONTENT © 2012 THE WORD IS MY OYSTER / BLOG DESIGN © 2012 SMITTEN BLOG DESIGNS