# At what body weight percentage is a person dead?

Published

• Has 2 years experience.

I got a stupid question on a test that was worded in such a way to trick me. I think the person was already dead at 20% of their normal body weight. Am I correct and why?

1,394 Posts

Specializes in Reproductive & Public Health. Has 10 years experience.

I don't even understand the question!

356 Posts

Has 2 years experience.

I had a questions like this, "The client is less than 20% of his normal body weight and hasn't eaten in three days. What should you do?" Isn't the client already dead. Lets suppose their ideal body weight is 100lbs. Doesn't a weight of 20lbs(20% of ideal body weight) equal death already?

I misread the question thinking they were talking about 80% of ideal body weight. I reworded it to be exactly the same as the test question. I'm assuming normal body weight lies between 90-200lbs for most people, but 20% would equal certain death I'm assuming. I just thought it was a bs question because if you are dead what is there to worry about? I did misread it though.

2 Articles; 4,102 Posts

Specializes in being a Credible Source. Has 13 years experience.

Surely, most people would be dead at 20% of their body weight... however, a grossly obese person pushing 800 lbs, could be live at 20% of their body weight (presuming they were medically managed on the descent) which would be 160 lbs.

Even some 300 pounders might survive at 60 lb, though probably not most of them and probably not without medical management.

I'm curious, what was the precise wording of the question?

356 Posts

Has 2 years experience.

I was talking about ideal body weight. That is an interesting thing to think about though.

2 Articles; 4,102 Posts

Specializes in being a Credible Source. Has 13 years experience.

It would appear that either the question was written incorrectly or that you misinterpreted it. I'd imagine that they meant 20% ~below~ their ideal body weight, not 20% ~of~ their ideal body weight.

I had several occasions in nursing school where the instructor's lousy grammar (or poor math skills or poor knowledge of biochemistry) led to invalid questions like this one. I quickly learned, however, not to challenge them and to let them think that they were correct and were more knowledgeable than I.

356 Posts

Has 2 years experience.

Yes, I was informed it literally was less than 20%. I misread it because it makes no sense since most, if not all people, would be dead.

They have a system where they throw out a question if most miss it, but you are right about questioning things. I think I am wasting my breath when I do that since poor grammar or clarity means nothing to them.

4 Articles; 20,908 Posts

Specializes in Critical Care, ED, Cath lab, CTPAC,Trauma. Has 43 years experience.

I just can't help myself......The client is less than 20% of his normal body weight and hasn't eaten in three days. What should you do?" call the coroner.......the patient hasn't eaten in 3 days because they are dead....

I'm sorry........I couldn't resist.......it's poor question

2 Articles; 5,114 Posts

Are you absolutely sure it didn't say "..

The client has lost 20% of his normal body weight ..." ?

That might account for what they told you the right answer was.

356 Posts

Has 2 years experience.
Are you absolutely sure it didn't say "..

The client has lost 20% of his normal body weight ..." ?

That might account for what they told you the right answer was.

356 Posts

Has 2 years experience.

The answer I got to to "Aren't they dead?" was "Not necessariiy, but close." Guess its just something to laugh off unless I fail nursing school because of it.

1 Article; 3,377 Posts

Specializes in PICU, Sedation/Radiology, PACU. Has 12 years experience.

Another example of how nursing school is different from the real world. If the patient is so nutritionally deficient that they are close to death, I doubt a psychiatrist, (who can provide therapy and medications that will likely take weeks to be effective) is going to be much help.

Perhaps "Put a feeding tube in and force feed the patient" would be a better answer.

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