“Spontaneous Defecation”

Q: Is it true that a person spontaneously urinates or defecates when they die?

A: The short answer is no. The longer answer is that it does happen but not in every death. On average, only about one person in ten has urinated or defecated prior to death. Urination can occur simply because there is enough time for the body to relax enough to urinate before it shuts down. This elimination isn’t necessarily indicative of a full bladder. Someone who has drank heavily and has been passed out for several hours prior to death may in fact have several hundred cubic centimeters of urine built up in their bladder (this amount is often documented at autopsy).

Defecation may not occur until after the death has occurred—although the process of elimination isn’t a voluntary movement on the part of the deceased. Moving a body around while examining it or attempting to remove it from a scene can cause fecal matter to exude from the individual. In this respect, the human body acts similarly to a tube of toothpaste as the bowels are compressed.

As a side note, gas that has built up in the bowels is also eliminated as the body is moved or examined. This elimination typically occurs without an audible sound, but I have heard some with this expected accompaniment. For description sake, the degree of smell ranges from “dirty diaper? to “you should see a doctor about your ass? to “who would do that in a public restroom.?

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