5 Movie and Television Medical Myths

Over the holidays I saw an action picture by a major director. I am always struck by the lack of medical science in television and movies. As a medical professional most of my friends are in the same field. When we see movies together we always have a good laugh about how medically ridiculous some things are. This is a personal top 5 list of the ones that bother me frequently . Taking these in reverse order I will get my pedantic “geek” on.

5. Dead People and Blood: I do not mean zombies. I am not trying to kill (Pun Intended) someone’s need to be campy or take artistic license. Still many serious dramas choose to put the camera on the dead character and it just fails to look real in any way. In real life when people die their circulatory system stops and they take on a waxy yellow appearance. TV and movies try to make people look dead but it is never correct. To me characters who die often appear like actors pretending to sleep. I am not asking for directors to really kill people. Just try a little make-up. The worst offenders don’t even edit out the actor breathing. Theatrical blood fails to look real as well. The blood looks like what a special effects guy thinks blood looks like, not the actual fluid. It ruins my suspension of disbelief when I see the vampire with strawberry syrup around the mouth. There is a wide variation in theatrical blood and yet it always seems a little off. Everybody cuts themselves. you would think special effects guys could look at their own paper cuts.

4. Sci-Fi futuristic medicine”He’s Dead Jim.”: I am a big Sci-Fi fan and I am always completely disappointed by the fictional future’s medical treatment. I admire Gates McFadden’s(Dr. Beverly Crusher on Star Trek TNG) for requiring medical continuity in the program. Continuity is sorely lacking in future medicine. Star Trek TOS Dr. Leonard (Bones) McCoy I think his job was pronouncing people dead. If he likes you you’re OK, if not ” He’s Dead Jim.”. In one episode he re-attaches Spock’s brain utilizing ancient knowledge. The knowledge runs out before he finishes, yet he completes the surgery with his own medical knowledge. The next week Kirk’s Native american wife gets stoned(I mean in the biblical sense) and he says “sorry there nothing I can do.”. Take out your brain in 23rd century no problem. Hit with rocks, sorry nothing we can do about that. Apparently the Federation eliminated the AHA CPR classes. Spock, Kirk, nobody says “So were not even going to beam her up and try to save her?” It’s not just Star Trek at fault. In Star Wars Darth Vader needs to be ventilated constantly yet he can pick people up with one hand and throw them. If they can stick Luke into the “Bacta Tank” and fix him up how come Vader is still a big mess. There is no limit to the Nit’s I could pick in this category. For 2012 the bad medical science winner was Prometheus the aliens prequel. The surgery machine in the movie what a great idea. Having the female protagonist getting up and running after having abdominal surgery impossible. I don’t care how many staples you shoot in her belly she is not getting up.

3. Bullet and Arrow Wounds: I will tell you that being able to walk around with an arrow sticking out of your chest is very very unlikely to happen. The hero with the arrow sticking out of the left chest wall holding his arm is extremely implausible. Anything penetrating your chest below the collarbone will put you out of commission 99% of the time. There is no safe spot to get hit in the upper chest.  At best it will collapse your lung with a pnuemothorax and you will have respiratory failure. You will not ride away on your horse to pull the arrow out later. In Braveheart, one of the characters has an arrow pulled out and they cauterizes the wound. He is up and going again after a shot of liquor. Great scene but not going to happen. Air will be sucked into the wound collapsing your lung leading to respiratory distress and death. FYI if you are not in the old west or ancient times pulling out any penetrating trauma is the wrong thing to do. You will cause more damage and likely reduce your ability to survive. It needs to be removed surgically. Bottom line, if penetrating injuries don’t kill you, you are better off leaving it in. While on the subject of pulling things out. Bullets left behind are not always fatal. Movies often lead you to believe that you have to cut the bullet out of the victim or the character will die. A common scene is the movie doctor giving up” the bullet is too deep”, a movie death sentence. In real life digging in the wound with a knife is probably more fatal. The movie Tombstone with Kurt Russell is an example of this medical mistake. I see radiographs regularly where the bullet fragments have been in place for decades. It keeps you from getting an MRI but not much else in life. In their defense, it is a period film. Doctoring was primarily opiates and amputations in post civil war era. Sorry Iron Man you don’t have that excuse, shrapnel will not slowly migrate into your heart. Putting in a car battery powered magnet will not save you. The invasive wires would result in a infection and that would be lethal.  Movies do get some medical trauma right. Gunshot wounds to the belly to “Make him suffer”. Abdominal GSW is a slow death if you miss the liver, kidneys, spleen or messenteric artery. The intestinal injury results in a slow painful infection and death.

2. Knocked Out and He’s OK folks: Being knocked unconscious is by definition a brain injury. It does not matter the mechanism. If you are unconscious from a blow to the head it is huge amount of force. Our head has evolved to take a pretty good shot. A mechanical analogy for the head is a water filled helmet wrapped with leather. Anything that sufficiently traumatizes the brain despite that will cause damage. That damage would last months at least and may be permanent. In the ER the only time we are concerned with head injuries is when you were knocked out. Concussed patients don’t just wake up in 20 minutes and go back to life as usual with a mild headache. If you crack someone across the Occiput with a Glock hard enough to knock them out, they may never wake up. Countless movies use this useless plot mechanism. Maybe Mr. Spock can nerve pinch someone and have them wake up in 20 minutes. Do it any other way and they may never wake up.

1.And the #1 dumbest thing I see in TV and Movies, Defibrillation: I do not know where the idea that shocking flatline patients came from but it needs to stop. Human beings are not Chevy’s. You cannot restart someone’s heart with a defibrillator shock. There are many offending movies but my favorite was the 90’s movie the Abyss. In the movie a female lead becomes hypothermic and anoxic to get her through water to safety. In the movie the “Cold” will slow down her metabolism and she will survive. That is minimally plausible. Then they shock her to try to restart her heart. It doesn’t work. Then the movie gets it right. The male lead refuses to give up and begins CPR. Sometimes when movies get it wrong they get it right. Medically Asystole or Flatline is a condition treated by CPR and medication. Defibrillation will do nothing. Defibrillation is for patients in Ventricular Fibrillation. In simple terms the electrical activity in the heart is irregular, shocking can reset the natural pacemaker. Shocking asystole does not kick start the heart, a la Frankenstein. Shocking dead patients as a plot tool is ubiquitous.  A whole movie from the 80’s Flatliners was based on this medically wrong premise. Even when movies and TV use a defibrillator right they still get it wrong.  There is a classic X-Files episode where “Dr. Scully” runs into a room with an elderly man that appears to be having seizure and pronounces “he is in ventricular fibrillation get the crash cart”. Apparently she can see electrical impulses by looking at a patient without a monitor. She could qualify as a JREF paranormal prize challenger.  Maybe Mulder was looking an X-file in the face for 8 years. More likely it was bad writing and medical fact checking.

So when you see me sitting in a movie laughing at a scene that is not funny, give me the benefit of the doubt that something is medically ridiculous.

I tried to limit this to my biggest pet peeves. I did leave out honorable mention transthorasic intra-cardiac injection. These were made famous in the Iconic Pulp Fiction and The Rock scenes. More crap. If you see someone suffering from a drug related issue and another person is going to jam a EPI shot into their chest, stop them. You may save a life.

If anyone else has any medical pet peeves with TV and Movies feel free to share.

Happy New Year!





About Stephen Propatier

Stephen Propatier is a board certified acute care nurse practitioner specializing in spine and sports medicine. He is a member of the Society for Science Based Medicine.
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62 Responses to 5 Movie and Television Medical Myths

  1. Roberto says:

    Nice, but I wouldn’t call nº 4 and 5 “myths”

  2. Craig Good says:

    I think you hit most of the biggies. Another that gets me is the way CPR looks in most movies and TV shows. It’s not the rib-cracking rollick that it should be, but a gentle little massage. Now, I understand why you don’t want to do it for real on a healthy person, but I should think that in a high-budget movie that can already blow heads open, etc., that the budget could cover a prosthetic chest that could take the punishment.

    In a larger sense the door you’ve opened is into bad research in general. Take any subject you know a lot about, and most entertainment will get it wrong, if not backwards. Just ask any shooter, pilot, or computer programmer. That’s why I appreciate it when a writer shows the care to do some research.

  3. And there’s the adrenalin injection directly into the heart thing too, like in Pulp Fiction. I hate that one of my favourite movies has that.

  4. Gymgoki says:

    I too hate TV/movie medicine.
    A patient asked me (today) if my life was like that depicted on “Gray’s Anatomy”. I told her that real life is way way less sex and way way more poop.
    ER was pretty good in the first year except they frequently held the laryngoscope in their right hand.
    I like to watch “Person of Interest” ( I love a good “Big Brother” associated with an ass kicking vigilante Jesus). But their medical portrayals are so preposterous and embarrassing that I wrote them and told them I would be their medical consultant for free. (They haven’t gotten back to me yet.).
    I could go on…..

    • Stephen Propatier says:

      I feel the same way about ER,at first I was impressed by the majority of the details. The show rapidly disintegrated over time. I couldn’t even tell you the first thing about grays anatomy. I cannot watch medical drama at all. My colleagues love house but I couldn’t get into it.

  5. DaveB says:

    That’s great info, I love hearing about all the BS that just sort of becomes so broadly accepted that no one even bothers to research it anymore, like the defibrillator thing. How many TV shows with medical consultants does that happen on? I’m pretty sure it happened at least once an episode on ER. Allow me to apply some skepticism to your skepticism though, regarding concussions, you say that any time you’re knocked out it’s because of a concussion and potentially quite serious. I understand that, but what about someone like a boxer? Many of them get KOed quite a few times in their career, and unless they’re a pro boxer for many many years, they seem to emerge ok – or maybe they don’t, maybe one of the dirty secrets of boxing is that after a few years you’re not going to be able to draw a straight line or remember your ATM number. I’m just looking for a little clarification. I ask because I draw a comic about superheroes online and I like subverting some of the more common tropes of the genre. I’ve noted that superheroes get knocked out about once every 2 – 3 issues, and while we can forgive Wolverine and his healing factor for not suffering in the long term, it seems to me that Cyclops would have that boxer palsy to such a degree that he wouldn’t be able to dress himself.

    • Stephen Propatier says:

      The term Punch drunk originates from the permanent brain damage suffered by too many concussions. There is a component of severity, healing time, and genetic predisposition. In the ER we say when you are knocked out you could wake up in two seconds or never.

      • Neville Ross says:

        Steven, I couldn’t really care about your Star Wars objections for the simple reason that it means nothing in the wider sense of the trilogy (re: Darth Vader’s breathing.) Vader breathes that way because the machinery he uses sounds like that, not he himself. The injuries he suffered at the climax of Revenge of the Sith only affected his good arm and his two legs, not the rest of him. As well he was quite a good Force-user (the Chosen One!) and was able to use the Force to great effect in maintaining his health.

        With regards to Prometheus, all I can say (again) is, who cares? Obviously the bio-bed’s medicines can deliver drugs that can get a patient up and running faster and better than what’s available right now. Worst sci-fi film of 2012? Check out this review instead: Cult Movie Review: Prometheus and meditate upon the themes in it rather than nitpick about medical issues that really aren’t because of the future technology used in the film.

        • Monkey says:

          No sorry that idiotic Prometheus business where she runs around really ruined the movie for me. I don’t care what drugs she had, you cannot slice up your gut and then run, you need those muscles to hold you up.

        • Stephen Propatier says:

          well I see your point but within the continuity of the story they used plain old medical staples. Current medical technology. I do not care what medicine you take stand up 5 seconds after being stapled and your intestines will be on the floor. Plus the pelvic muscles you have cut will not work until they are healed. I saw no evidence of any special closure devices spray or another futuristic closure technology.
          My point is consistency. It breaks me out of the moment when you are going for realism and you do something for visual reasons because it looks impressive.
          In all fantasy movies you can post-hoc justify anything. It was the force, magical medicine, they can do anything in the future, movie special pleading. Be consistent I would have had no problem with a specialized laser/ spray skin closure that made her belly whole instantly, no they used staples. Because it is visually impressive.
          I did say it was the worst medical reality offender not the worst movie of 2012 to be clear. Although as a Sci-Fi fan I found the whole movie to be contrived and lacked continuity, plus the whole cave paintings and star map was a scientific fail.

          Star Wars I love but even as kid during the 80’s I wondered if he’s so strong why does he need help to breath?

          • Gymgoki says:

            Medical methamphetamine
            Those staples were magnetic (as in magnetic bracelets and vests that people use now-a-days.)

  6. Gymgoki says:

    I just thought: Do police officers feel the same way? And if they do, then how can they watch any TV?

    • clint says:

      We certainly do. Police officers tend to watch police TV shows similarly to doctors watching medical shows i.e. either waste time picking apart the procedural errors or suspend disbelief and enjoy the fiction of it all.

      • Gymgoki says:

        Police shows are ubiquitous. Ugh…..how can you stand it? I can’t stand watching medical dramas. The errors are so bad that they are distracting. I agree suspending belief is important. For example my wife liked House. I would tolerate it just so I could hang around with her. I finally came to realize that the whole “medical” setting and contrivance was a MacGuffin. The “story” was about a pathological personality….my wife also likes “Elementary” featuring a similarly pathological Sherlock Holmes.

  7. Roberto says:

    I love that nobody tries to resuscitate anyone outside of a hospital. Guy gets shot, stabbed, run over, poisoned, whatever; he talks a bit, says he’s feeling cold, asks to deliver a final message to her wife, etc. The second he stops speaking, he’s officially dead. Not a single lousy chest compression is given (unlike in-hospital “movie and tv guidelines” to keep chest compressions for about 15s before “calling it in”).

    • Stephen Propatier says:

      My favorite thing in the hospital settings, like ER, mentioned above, is the resuscitation in the 4 walled glass room. I know it is TV and visual but still the whole family pushed up against the glass. Not a chance in the real world.

  8. I was just watching “From Russia with Love” over the weekend and noticed the same exact thing. Kerim Bey (Bond’s contact in Turkey) is shot in the arm, then the next night his arm is in a sling (which is basically a piece of cloth) but he can still work a sniper rifle. Then, the day after that, he’s perfectly fine and the gunshot is totally forgotten.

    Then again, bad medicine in James Bond movies could be its own blog post…

  9. Jason says:

    Great article. Shocking a patient who is in asystole is one if my biggest peeves too. Don’t forget that defibrillation isn’t just for ventricular fibrillation (VF) – pulseless ventricular tachycardia (VT) is the other shockable rhythm.

  10. Sundog says:

    “Also the device was not programmed for abortion I guess the republican party does make it to the future after all.”

    Now that you’ve taken your political cheap shot, go watch that scene again. We have no idea whether the machine was programmed for abortion, because the character never asked for one. What she asked for was a C-section. As a medical professional, you really shouldn’t confuse the two.

    • Stephen Propatier says:

      Absolutly correct shows the fallibility of human memories. I actually thought she asked for an abortion. However with your comment I went back an checked the dialog it was C-section. My mistake I retract the statement.

  11. Tyson Adams says:

    I always love the hero of the movie suffering a major beating or being seriously injured, yet continuing to fight on. Yet we see the same thing happen in sport and the person is stretchered off and doesn’t play again for months. I think we’ve grown to accept the impossible in TV and movies for some strange reason.

  12. Brendan McKinney says:

    Stephen: A school I once taught at had a defibrillator installed in the lobby, and all staff members were trained in its use, as well as in basic CPR. Is the current trend of keeping AEDs in public places a useful one?

    • Stephen Propatier says:

      AED are very useful they are designed to shock only in a indicated rhythm, it will also tell the person what to do including resume CPR. It is always best to have a well trained experienced provider with all the equipment. That said AED’s can save lives even with complete CPR neophytes.

  13. Wordwizard says:

    Enjoyable post. Made me laugh. SPOCK’S BRAIN is generally agreed to be THE WORST Star Trek (TOS) episode ever, but the other tropes you mention also help explain why it is no longer re-run on TV. However, I always thought that Spock’s famous Vulcan Nerve Pinch was a misplaced dramatization of applying pressure to the artery leading to the brain. If one is “knocked out” by having the brain deprived of oxygen that way, briefly (just long enough to lose consciousness), rather than by trauma to the head, does this cause significant brain damage? Also, what if someone is stunned (unable to move, but conscious)?
    HOUSE does not even PRETEND to be accurate–the malpractice alone is incredible! Everything in it is unashamedly plot-driven with no attempt to be believable.

    • Stephen Propatier says:

      Thanks wordwizard I admit to being to in love with having the last word. thank you for being gracious. As a post-er and not a comment-er I need to have a different professional standard. I like to think that I like good debates, I expect the same level of thoughtful objections in the future. A chorus of people agreeing with each other is boring.
      The oxygen deprivation thing is a good point, you can, if you are careful render someone unconscious without causing permanent brain damage. It would require compression of both sides of the neck. That said there are other risks to carotid artery compression, blood clot, aneurysm, artery dissection to name a few. On balance I would call that safer but still dangerous.
      Stunned is something I am not sure about. There are episodic spinal cord injuries that result in temporary paralysis relatively rare. I am not certain about a brain injury that would generate that set of symptoms.

      • Wordwizard says:

        “you can, if you are careful render someone unconscious without causing permanent brain damage”
        –I was once rendered unconscious by a mugger using an illegal choke-hold who was unsuccessfully trying to reduce my supply of breath to get me to stop screaming (I believe), rather than trying to “careful”-ly render me unconscious. Looks as if I was indeed brain-injured, from what you say. (Explains a lot, eh?) I’m sure Spock was always careful, though! He was just that kind of guy.

        “Stunned is something I am not sure about. There are episodic spinal cord injuries that result in temporary paralysis relatively rare. I am not certain about a brain injury that would generate that set of symptoms.”
        –I have twice been temporarily stunned: once from tripping on a piece of ice; once being thrown off a motorcycle. Both times I hit my head on earth, but the second time I was wearing a bicycle (not motorcycle) helmet, which saved my bacon. Each time I was fine afterwards, with no spinal cord injuries that I know about. Does this give you more info for the perfect factually-correct TV/movie injury?

  14. Christina Marshall says:

    First, let me say I know nothing about medicine, I work in finance, so none of these things bother me when I watch because I don’t know the correct way to do them anyhow. However, I have been a patient. I had my gallbladder out and they used 3 or 4 tiny incisions and pulled it out near my belly button. Run? I couldn’t even turn on my side for about a week and I was 25 and healthy, so even those of us who know nothing about medicine know some of this is just either lazy scriptwriting or ignorance. Very interesting article. Thanks for writing it.

  15. Eric Eddy says:

    It’s called “suspension of disbelief,” ever try it? We watch film and television to escape reality by visiting a fantasy. Being a fan of horror and sci-fi, I can not stress enough the “FICTION” aspect. If I want to see reality, I’ll watch a documentary or a biography.

    • clint says:

      You are correct about suspension of disbelief and we must to that to watch any sci-fi or horror. We must suspend disbelief that a man can fly or spaceships can travel FTL.
      However, many medical and police shows are put forward as realism. Take the lead-in to Law and Order for example. “These are their stories.”, or ER’s montage of the characters in an Emergency Room background, tells us that this isn’t sci-fi but apparently what it is really like. Everyone acknowledges the drama is fictional but it is supposed to be set in the real world.
      It leads the person with no knowledge of medicine or police procedures to think this is the way things actually are.

      That said, in the sci-fi genre, more things are possible. The “healing” processes in Star Trek are way out of our league, where the doctor passes an instrument over torn muscle and skin and it miraculously merges and is instantly healed. They even do something similar with broken bones in a few episodes.
      The patient goes immediately back to work.
      Obviously, this or a similar type of healing was used in Prometheus.

    • Stephen Propatier says:

      I agree with both you and clint. I Just have a problem with jarring reality and lack of continuity. I have no problem with the transporter restoring Dr. Pulaski in star trek when she was aged. Nice fantasy totally in line with what has been previously supported in the shows reality.. TO a medical person pulling a arrow out of your chest and walking away is like Bruce Willis in Pulp Fiction suddenly flying away like superman to avoid ving rames. Totally out context and in-congruent with the established reality. It destroys the escapism for me.

      • Anonymous says:

        Well said. To watch medical dramas is like watching Law and Order and seeing the judge pull out a rubber chicken instead of a gavel to close a serious case.

    • mud says:

      I have to make the admission that I am not very sure if people stopped watching movies with me because of my pedantic nature or my refusal to adopt “suspension of belief” when bloopers can be so glaring stopped being entertaining to my fellows.

      If suspension of belief (a mantra at best) is required; Watch something bound in a mythology. The star trek example above failed because it was inconsistent with other episodes.

      In that light, I enjoyed a very trivial series called Angel because its continual corny subtext was brilliant.

      I would suggest that there is always sport. Watching people who are paid to be permanently injured is very instructive.

      I can be just as scathing of documentaries.

      • Stephen Propatier says:

        I agree I like that Angel series as well if you mean the Joss W series. TO my memory it was very consistent within it’s own reality. more than that it was just flat out funny sometimes.

  16. Leigh says:

    A great read. There’s nothing worse than having years of specialized knowledge in a field that makes for popular drama. I’m not in medicine, but I am a geologist, and I’ve winced at more movies with bad geology or just general bad science than I care to recall. There’s suspension of disbelief and then there is too much disbelief to suspend.

    • Stephen Propatier says:

      You must have a great laugh at a movie like dante’s peak. or Volcano two terrible 90’s movies.

      • Leigh says:

        Oh yes, both of those make my list. But The Core was the absolute worst. It takes itself just serious enough to make for a good comedy. To this day I think my father convinced me to watch it just to see how many faces I would make at the screen.

  17. Craig Good says:

    A question for the medically-trained: What about those “choke holds”, such as seen on “The Unit” where the victim can be put to sleep to wake later “with a hell of a headache”. I know that I’ve experienced a vagal faint, caused by improperly-chewed scrambled egg combined with a low heart rate and being slightly ill. It’s pretty much what happened to W in the famous pretzel incident. But both Bush and I were awake again in just a couple of seconds.

    So is it plausible to externally place pressure on some combination of the vagus and/or blood vessels to induce unconsciousness without trauma? I suspect so. Would the effects last more than a couple of seconds? I wonder about that part.

    • Stephen Propatier says:

      I kind of answered this in a reply to wordwizard. Very plausible that it could be done. In fact I have seen assault cases, even domestic abuse cases where carotid artery pressure renders someone unconscious. I have even seen a psychiatric patient do it to themselves. A couple of second does happen. I should say that I would not recommend this as method of restraint. Since there is a fine line between unconscious and Anoxic brain injury.

      • Wordwizard says:

        When I was illegally choke-holded unconscious, it was for more than a couple of seconds–long enough for me to have a “dream” before coming to, and also receive a painful kick in the butt, and punch in the middle of the chest, cracking cartilage (My attackers wanted me awake, to tell them where in the apt. my money was!).

        • Stephen Propatier says:

          I am glad you can speak so neutrally about a very traumatic experience. When it comes to stunned what do you mean when you say that. Was it like locked in syndrome normal mindset with total disconnect from you body. Or do you mean like a star trek stun knocked out unconscious?

          • Stephen Propatier says:

            To be medically pedantic..after blood flow to your brain stops you have about 15-20 sec before loss of consciousness. How much damage is suffered is dependent on time, metabolism, temperature, and blood oxygen saturation. Because of neural plasticity/redundancy there has to be a significant amount of damage before you get post-event sequelae. Concussive damage differs since there is always micro hemorrhage and the bleed affects surrounding structures continuing the damage beyond the event itself.

            I do not think that entertainment needs that level of precision. just reasonable adherence to the general medical knowledge of what is possible what is not. For Sci-Fi just be consistent.

          • Wordwizard says:

            When I say “stunned”, I mean fully conscious, but completely unable to move–what you call “locked in syndrome”.

          • Stephen Propatier says:

            I never have personally seen that in 10 years of the ED, not being a neurologist I could only speculate to the mechanism. The only thing physiologically that I know that could do that is a injury to the ventral Pons. It is a fairly protected structure, but an axial load to the upper spinal cord could induce neuron stretch to the cord. That would qualify as an exotic injury, twice.

          • Wordwizard says:

            Stephen: “ED” stands for? (My Googling came up with…well, you know what it came up with!) “exotic injury, twice.” This sounds a bit scary. Since I DID walk away seemingly no worse for wear both times, perhaps it is something else less exotic, or at least something that, having happened once, my particular brain makeup is more prone to have happen again. I guess that, without a neurologist weighing in, we will NOT come up with a new, improved, medically correct TV/movie injury at this rate. However, if being stunned is REALLY as rare as you seem to think, why would we have a monosyllabic, Old English-descended word for it?

          • Stephen Propatier says:

            Sorry Emergency Department or ER.
            Being stunned is not rare but I think we are talking about different things.
            The medical definition of “Stun/Stunned is to make senseless groggy or dizzy by as or if by a blow.” Paralysis is not normally a component of being stunned.
            The condition, as you have described it, is more in line with Locked in syndrome. “Locked-in syndrome is a condition in which a patient is aware and awake but cannot move or communicate verbally due to complete paralysis of nearly all voluntary muscles in the body except for the eyes.”

            Locked in syndrome or psuedocoma is rare in my experience. It would be pure speculation on my part how it happened and why you have no long term effect. The most common reason we see for this in the ER is respiratory distress and intubation. Patients are medicinally paralyzed prior to respiratory intubation and if not properly sedated terrified. We know they are not properly sedated because their heart rate goes through the roof other wise they are trapped in their own body. I have not seen that condition related to physical trauma. So there may be something about your physiology that pre-disposes you to this injury. Since it is related to significant trauma I wouldn’t say you had to get checked out. If it happens with minimal trauma like slip and fall then yes maybe you should be looked at.

            I know this is way off topic from my post.

  18. NMS says:

    What about the hero who gets beat up and hung for hours or overnight by his hands on a meat hook…?

    • Stephen Propatier says:

      A very thoughtful question. The size of the person being hung on the hook would affect the level of injury. Shoulder dislocation, necrotic muscle injury, rhabdomylosis are just some the possible permanent outcomes. But there is enough wiggle room that it is possible that a person would be very very uncomfortable and survive unharmed.

      • mud says:

        But not if you are Captain Jack Harkness..

        See, trite, corny Science fiction always has its outs..

        Still, the pterodactyl flying indoors is just a little irritating.

        NMS, i never saw massacre at golgotha by Mel Gibson..I heard it came from a very reliable script.

  19. squirrel says:

    I’m surprised no one has mentioned the scene from Kill Bill where she spontaneously wakes up after years in deep coma, looking hot as ever of course, spends a few minutes doing some stretching and then drives away to kick some butt….LOL.

    Being a women who has never been in a physical confrontation I know nothing about fighting. But it has always seemed highly improbable to me that someone could engage in a brutal fist fight complete with unrestrained kicks to the kidneys, possibly a broken nose, spit out teeth, shake their head and walk away. Guys? Really….that’s got to hurt like hell. Right?

    • Stephen Propatier says:

      You are 100% right there is a whole post in how Hollywood uses coma and recovering from coma. Short answer complete BS. In tarrentino’s defense his movies are a little cartoon-ish within its reality. There are well documented cases of people suffering severe injury but continuing to fight, still not to the level that movies use it.

    • Anonymous says:

      Yep they can do it. If you look it up people can also knock someone out then swing as the body hit the concrete and miss. A lot of people getting knocked unconscious I believe this reaction with better medical knowledge makes us overreact too when someone is injured in this way. Reality is most self defense experts teach how to knock someone out, rather than simply kill them which is preferable. There’s a Viking Saga which says someone once knocked out a loser rather than killing him. Another says a Viking fought without a leg for a good while which is medically possible in some circumstances the body clamps shut around the blood vessels. but that is one of the veritable odds of Warfare and medicine

      • I get what your saying. Story or no. If you cut through the femoral artery completely you will bleed to death in minutes even if the leg is still attached excepting you tourniquet. There is no internal arterial mechanism to stop bleeding from a disrupted major artery. Arteries can contract slightly but blood is a liquid and a slight change in diameter is hardly going to allow you to live.. Never mind fight.Arteries are high pressure vessels that literally shoot blood at you and it doesn’t stop until they are dead or it is clamped off. Stories from the battle field are about as reliable as I caught a fish this big stories… Humans conflate and mistake, our memories are malleable and unreliable. Stories are stories. Vikings as a rule were notorious confabulates.

  20. Tom Hodgson says:

    MacGyver used an bicycle filed down to make thermite, but the result looked a lot more like blow torch than any thermite I’ve ever seen. 🙁

  21. gerald kerr says:

    a burning (for me anyway) question..does a watch really stop after a traumatic death…and if so, why?

  22. Andrea says:

    It annoys the crap outta me when they come flying in with the paddles and shock someone with clothes still on. Not to mention that the modern defibrillators I’ve see don’t even have paddles anymore. It also irks me when they show someone who is supposedly in a coma in an unmonitored bed with a nasal canula.

  23. Anonymous says:

    Number 2 and 3 are actually correct. This is pessimism. Medically, you shoot someone in the head, the bullet goes over the brain. Then it goes through one half fatally, then bothe halves, then onenter half and the other is all that is needed to live. Reality is anything can get us and modern medicine has found all the ways to die, but not all of them simply occur. There is a specific technique for removing arrows. Bullets aren’t always good to just leave in
    The only peeve I have really seen to be true, is never trust medical personal. As experts they demand everything be done under their ideal, according to their training, and not by anyone else. In a 911 world this is where our belief in stoRyan dies tragically, and wrongfully. Even when circumstances forbid it.

    Compliment Braveheart and Rambo for cauterizING with gunpowder and iron. That is to period for a lot of bleeding before ties off blood vessels with strings.

    The defibrillator is theasy only thing I have ever found incorrect and consistent, and I research these myths for validity, origin, and our modern negative bias against fiction. Truthfully you may be hallucinating the fakeness to the blood. People go to funerals and do bleed. Which is more likely? That people get people things wrong living in a real world, or that this is mental bias because of a few things in a few movies wrong in our memory.

    Where did defibrillator come from? I traced the origin and reality of a lot of things, some before the culture and mindset changed. Cannot find this one.

    Also you expect someone to not try to pull out a knife and seal the wound before getting up to fight again? Fighting with the knife in is especially bad! When there is no break in some movies.

    Also, I think the x files then tried to get it right and precise. And messed up somehow.

    Most movie myths are not even real, they are true things that actually can or have occurred. They are usually very few, very consistent, or very specific myths that really do occur and they are breeches in continuity rather than a violation of our natural laws. As Tolkien said we are two worlds with our own laws of nature. The other may have Magic, new discoveries, new laws, new applications of the old laws, and copies of our laws of physics. We are supposed to believe in the one has its own as surely as we believe in the other. But the defib is a copied law that is then broken.

  24. Peter E. says:

    I cannot stand this one and it’s more and more pervasive throughout all the movies these days.

    Even the largest budget movies…

    If you get hit by a stun gun or taser, you’re immediately rendered unconscious. Every single time. You will also stay unconscious as long as convenient for the plot.

    After that, it’s when anyone is killed via a bullet, knife, arrow etc, they die immediately. Doesn’t matter where they’re hit. They fall down dead, instantaneously.

  25. P says:

    My family is all in medical field and I’m only blue collar guy . I’ve been welding for 38yrs and nobody can get a simple cutting torch flame right. How much can it cost to get experienced people to be an advisor on such simple matters? Like you it hurts my skills and knowledge. I love sci fi you think movies and time frames they represent would be relevant.

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