r u ded?


Some years ago in Hyogo Prefecture, Japan, three elderly siblings were discovered living with their father, long deceased. They had, for ten years, been in consultation with a relative over the possibility that he might have passed on, but were loath to jump to conclusions in such a serious matter. The Japanese are a thorough people.

In an effort to prevent recurrences of this inability to detect the passing of a loved one, I have constructed this handy flowchart for determining if someone in your household is suffering from death.


  1. Is the subject moving at all?


      By this, I mean: is his chest rising and falling to indicate respiration? Has he blinked in the past 48 hours? If there’s no reaction to turning off the TV, things look grim.


      Yes B> Probably not dead, as such.

      No B> Go to 2


   2. Is there a disagreeable odor in the vicinity of the subject?


      This one can be tricky. I don't mean funk, sweat, must, or mildew: I mean cadaver: rotting meat, the trash dumpster behind a butcher shop—that sort of thing. With practice, poor personal hygiene can be distinguished from cessation of metabolism fairly reliably.


      Yes B> Check for bits of lunchmeat strewn about. If found, remove and wait several hours. If smell persists or intensifies, we have a winner.

      No B> Go to 3


   3. Is the subject making any noise?


      The absence of vocalization is in itself not necessarily diagnostic for death. Many males, in particular, will go for days or even weeks at a stretch without uttering anything beyond the occasional belch or grunt. However, a failure to detect any audible release of gas from the traditional bodily orifices over a period of two hours does warrant further examination.


      Yes B> While outgassing as a by‑product of active decomposition can’t totally be ruled out, you're most likely not looking at a corpse.

      No B> Go to 4


   4. Has the subject taken in any food or beverage lately?


      An excellent test is to place a bag of chips and a six-pack of the subject's favorite libation on a table in front of him. If after several hours neither of them has been wholly or partially consumed, suspect the worst.


      Yes B> Discounting hungry passersby, the grim reaper has not been here.

      No B> Go to 5


   5. Are there any detached or sloughing body parts?


      Check for any or all of the following: shriveled face, gaping eye sockets, lips curled back to reveal jawline where gums used to be, hair falling out in clumps, extremely long nails, rings sliding off due to lack of flesh on fingers, and a general hollow rattling sound when you reposition subject while vacuuming.


      Yes B> Arrange for a wake.

      No B> Try text messaging the subject. If you get a reply you're dealing with a hopeless technology addict, not a corpse, although the distinction can be moot. Bury him anyway, just to be safe.