In movies, people who are shot or stabbed in the chest, especially in or near the heart, generally lapse into unconsciousness and/or death instantly. This doesn't seem to be the case in real life, and I assume that most filmmakers don't want to show the reality of a person gurgling, moaning, and writhing around as they slowly die from internal hemorrhaging.

The death of Patroclus in the movie Troy follows this model:


For the sake of comparison, here's a summary of a couple of accounts of the death of John Lennon, who famously suffered such a fate. The two timelines varied slightly, so I included both sets of times. The times from the first account are the first listed, and the times from the second account follow, separated by a slash.

~10:50/10:45:  Shooting

~10:53/10:51:  Cops arrive, Lennon alive

?/10:53: Cops put Lennon in car and head for the hospital

?/11:00  Arrives at hospital, unconscious, not breathing, no pulse.

11:15/11:10-11:15:  Lennon pronounced dead

And here are two descriptions of the damage caused by the gunshots:

Three of the four bullets that struck Lennon's back passed completely through his body and out of his chest, one of which hit and became lodged in his upper left arm, while the fourth lodged itself in his aorta beside his heart; nearly all of them would have been fatal by themselves as each bullet hit vital arteries around the heart. As Lennon had been shot four times at close range with hollow-point bullets, Lennon's affected organs (particularly his left lung) and major blood vessels above his heart were virtually destroyed upon impact.
- Wikipedia: The Death of John Lennon


One round in particular struck the subclavian vein, a primary branch of the aorta and according to the ER team and autopsy the impact caused widespread damage to the major veins of the heart. Quora

Two bullets had passed through his upper left upper arm and entered his chest; two more entered his chest just behind the arm. Travelling through his torso, they ripped through his lungs and arteries. Three of the bullets exited the front of his chest: one under his left clavicle and two on the left side of his sternum. The fourth remained lodged inside his body.

According to Veteran, the worst injury was to Lennon's subclavian artery, a major branch of the aorta, the heart's main artery: "He was bleeding heavily." For 20 minutes, Veteran and his associates worked to get Lennon's heart beating again.
- Interview with attending physician, published in Guitar World magazine.

Is Lennon's experience typical? On average, how long does it take for a person to lose consciousness and die from severe trauma leading to catastrophic internal hemorrhaging?


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.