The "death smell"

  1. 0
    Hello,

    I've been chatting with a couple of nurses about the nature of the "death smell". This was prompted by a recent story you may have seen about a nursing home cat who cuddled up to people who were going to die soon.

    I hear that an ability to smell impending death is possible, and some nurses are aware of this smell. I've only been able to speak with a small number of nurses to date, and have had some trouble characterising the nature of the odour. I'm hoping that some of you kind people can offer your insights into this ability. My motivation is pure curiosity, with the hope of gaining knowledge.

    What is the nature of the smell? If you had to compare it to something else what would it be?

    Do you most often notice this smell in the aged at the onset of a "natural" death or those with a particular type of systemic problem (e.g. renal failure)?

    If you have this ability do you think that it is an actual odour, or perhaps is it a more synaesthesic effect, where a "feeling" (precognition) is active as well?

    Does anyone know of any research that has been done in this area? I've been looking through medical journals but haven't been able to find any.

    Thanks for your time reading this post, hope you can help me.

    Cheers,

    Flobbadob
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  3. 20 Comments so far...

  4. 0
    I don't know of any research, but I think it comes from their breath. Probably from acidosis.

    Very good question!!
  5. 0
    Here's some interesting research about the 'death smell':

    "They analysed the volatile organic compounds (VOCs) evolving from
    two corpses by relatively simple methodology.

    First of all, they remind us that the VOCs that constitute the smell
    arise from the same sources in each human corpse. Carbohydrates in the
    body break down to give mainly oxygenated compounds (alcohols,
    aldehydes, ketones, acids, esters, ethers), proteins degrade to
    nitrogen, phosphorus and sulphur compounds, nucleic acids from
    nitrogen and phosphorus compounds and lipids decompose to nitrogen,
    phosphorus and oxygenated compounds and hydrocarbons. So, in theory,
    different decaying bodies should produce the same set of VOCs.....The
    most abundant compounds were dimethyl disulphide, toluene, hexane,
    1,2,4-trimethylbenzene, 2-propanone, 3-pentanone and 2-pentanone. The
    relatively high levels of toluene were unexpected, leading the authors
    to hint at the possibility of toluene poisoning of the victims. The
    high number of fatty acid esters found was explained in terms of
    saponification. Many hydrocarbons, aldehydes, ketones and alcohols
    were also detected."
  6. 0
    I smell death while it is happening...with my animals too....it smells like acetone to me. Weird huh!
  7. 0
    Quote from sonicnurse2b
    Here's some interesting research about the 'death smell':

    "They analysed the volatile organic compounds (VOCs) evolving from
    two corpses by relatively simple methodology.

    First of all, they remind us that the VOCs that constitute the smell
    arise from the same sources in each human corpse. Carbohydrates in the
    body break down to give mainly oxygenated compounds (alcohols,
    aldehydes, ketones, acids, esters, ethers), proteins degrade to
    nitrogen, phosphorus and sulphur compounds, nucleic acids from
    nitrogen and phosphorus compounds and lipids decompose to nitrogen,
    phosphorus and oxygenated compounds and hydrocarbons. So, in theory,
    different decaying bodies should produce the same set of VOCs.....The
    most abundant compounds were dimethyl disulphide, toluene, hexane,
    1,2,4-trimethylbenzene, 2-propanone, 3-pentanone and 2-pentanone. The
    relatively high levels of toluene were unexpected, leading the authors
    to hint at the possibility of toluene poisoning of the victims. The
    high number of fatty acid esters found was explained in terms of
    saponification. Many hydrocarbons, aldehydes, ketones and alcohols
    were also detected."
    This talks about bodies (corpses) decaying after death. Would this apply to people who are still alive? I may be wrong, but it seems living bodies would not begin to decay until blood flow and metabolism have ceased. What am I missing?
  8. 0
    We also had a cat in the nursing home who would go and curl up with failing residents.She never curled up with healthy ones! My cat will not sit on my knee when I come home if there has been a death in the Home,Spooky! As for the death smell well once you have smelled it you will always recognise it but never quite be able to describe it.
  9. 0
    Quote from nightmare
    We also had a cat in the nursing home who would go and curl up with failing residents.She never curled up with healthy ones! My cat will not sit on my knee when I come home if there has been a death in the Home,Spooky! As for the death smell well once you have smelled it you will always recognise it but never quite be able to describe it.
    Interesting fact -a cat's sense of smell is 14 times stronger than a human's
  10. 0
    Well,there are dogs that sense seizures and also my dogs can tell if you are feeling sad...they will only come sit on you if you are feeling bad.
  11. 0
    it's a kind of smell that is hard to describe, I have noticed that a pt's breath will be very fruity and at the same time very awful smelling.

    Once you are around and have been in a room where a pt is dying, then you will be able to recognise the smell.

    Just like with gagerene!
  12. 0
    Fruity/sickly-sweet. Once you've smelled it, there's no mistaking what it is.


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