View Full Version : Insta-death from stab wound

07-18-2012, 01:40 PM
I've trawled back through the pages (& searched posts) to see if my answer was here already, but the threads relating to stabbing want their characters to live (for a while, at least), so I'm coming to ask the experts (& there are some great threads here, btw - there's so much knowledge on this site!).

How realistic is it to have an instant(ish) death from a stab wound? My story is a fantasy (medieval style), and a teen has been stabbed in the chest/stomach (either or both - whatever works best) with a dagger. I want the teen to slump to the ground, say some last words, and die pretty much straight away (before there's any chance of being healed - either magically or through first aid measures), but would that happen IRL?

Also, how much blood would there be in this scenario? Would it be spurting out (yeah, I've seen too many bad movies) or leaking slowly, etc? And when is it that blood dribbles/bubbles out of the mouth as a result of internal organ damage (i.e. which internal organs)?

Any and all help will be greatly appreciated. Thank you! :)

(Okay, now I'm going to have to gird my stomach for the replies cos I'm squeamish, lol!)

07-18-2012, 01:51 PM
I would think if you had the character stabbed though the heart and twisted the dagger, it'd work. Yes, there is spurting of blood. More like gushing in that case. I'm not 100% but it sounds pretty accurate and death should be relatively instantaneous. Do some research on how blood flows though the heart. Make should the stabbing happens where the blood enters the heart to receive oxygen. After being stabbed there, bleeding out would play a huge role in the death. Hope this helps you out.

07-18-2012, 02:06 PM
The heart is pretty well protected behind the rib cage, and kind of hard to stab. I think the quickest and easiest access would be the neck, sever the jugular and your victim will bleed out very quickly. Might be hard to talk though. :)

Also, lots of blood. Lots.

07-18-2012, 02:14 PM
The heart is pretty well protected behind the rib cage, and kind of hard to stab. I think the quickest and easiest access would be the neck, sever the jugular and your victim will bleed out very quickly. Might be hard to talk though. :)

Also, lots of blood. Lots.

It depends on who does the stabbing. Bones break after all. A male character would have an easier time with it as opposed to a female, but that wasn't specified.

07-18-2012, 03:15 PM
I'm fairly sure you can stab the heart by going up through the diaphragm, rather than through the ribs.

07-18-2012, 03:34 PM
There are spaces between the ribs, so stabbing at the middle of the chest on the left side of the breastbone could hit the heart and kill the person within a minute.

A stab in the middle of the abdomen could hit the aorta or lower vena cava - death within a minute.

In both cases, blood would be slowly leaking (not spurting) out from the wound and make a progressively bigger red stain on the clothes.

A stab to the groin (where the leg starts) would hit the femoral artery; the blood would be spurting out and cause death within few to several minutes; the bleeding out could be prevented by pressing upon the artery above the cut.

A stab on the front-left or front-right side of the neck would hit the carotid artery and jugular vein - again, death within a minute. The blood would come out in a pulsating manner. It's not a good scenario to plan any speech after this one, though.

07-18-2012, 07:31 PM
While a stab through the heart can kill, and either route will work; a stab through an eye will also kill. There are other head stabs that could kill instantly, but the eyes are easiest.

It might be possible to kill almost instantly with a carotid artery cut/ When the blood pressure to the brain plummets, unconsciousness will ensure, and death will follow if there no immediate treatment.

I almost forgot the traditional ice pick to the brain-stem. I'm not confident that this would kill immediately, but it would cause very little bleeding.

Use the eye. It is dramatic.

07-19-2012, 12:25 AM
Urgh, I'm doubly squeamish about damaging the eyes, lol!

Thanks for all your replies - rep points have been sent. :)

(And ElectricLights, yes, it is a man doing the stabbing.)

Will there be blood coming from the mouth if the chest and/or stomach have been stabbed?

Chasing the Horizon
07-19-2012, 12:40 AM
Stabbing someone in the heart is entirely possible and doesn't require much strength at all. What it requires is the proper angle and a long enough blade. You don't stab through bones; you slide the blade between the ribs and up. Someone who's highly trained in killing would know how to do this, but otherwise it's a lucky strike. It wouldn't be an assassin's first choice normally, though, because the arteries in the neck are much more exposed and cause death just as quickly. Still, there's no reason the stabber can't have gotten lucky if you need the character to die almost instantly.

There would be blood flowing from the wound, but not spurting like you'd have with a hit to the jugular or femoral artery, because the worst of the bleeding will be occurring internally around the heart.

ETA: Blood will come from the mouth if the stomach, esophagus/trachea, or lungs have been cut by the blade. In the sort of wound I'm imagining, a puncture to one of the lungs would be entirely possible (but optional, depending on whether you want blood to come from the mouth or not).

07-21-2012, 01:31 AM
I don't recall the details, but some 15 or so years ago, someone was killed in broad daylight on a busy shopping street in Singapore. Someone stabbed him with a thin blade. As I recall it, no one knew who or why. The victim died as you describe... collapsed and expired.

Mark Jacobs
07-21-2012, 01:41 AM
I've written on this topic in some depth for martial arts magazines. Though I consider it a little irresponsible to discuss specific targets that someone can be stabbed in which will kill them quickly, I will say that there are not that many "quick kill" targets, if you're defining a quick kill as something where the person will almost always die in under 10 seconds.

Although results of stab wounds can vary greatly depending on a number of factors, including the victim's size, constitution, and how hard his heart is pumping when he is stabbed, being wounded in most major organs, including the heart, will not lead to instantaneous death according to my interviews with medical experts. It can take anywhere from 10 seconds to several minutes for an individual to actually bleed out from such wounds. While they may quickly pass out from shock, pain, etc. they might be alive for some time. However, there are a couple of spots, primarily arteries, where a stab wound would likely mean nearly instantaneous death. And yes, if these arteries were severed, there's a good chance you would see a fountain of blood from what I've been told.

07-21-2012, 08:39 PM
look up how to stick a pig

07-22-2012, 02:37 AM
Long knife into the abdomen/liver and just below the ribs/breastbone, with the thrust angling up so that it hits the heart. That should do the trick. Between the ribs into the heart if the attacker is a really skilled fighter/assassin. Lots of blood.

Alternatively, knife into the abdomen below the breastbone as above, sliced broadly across the body to slice through the diaphragm. This creates a pneumothorax. Lungs collapse, person dies.

Eyeball stick etc if you're going for the shock/squick factor.

07-22-2012, 05:53 PM
Many thanks for the additional replies (rep points have been sent).

I've written the scene now and, hopefully, it's pretty accurate with the advice given here (lots of blood :D). It takes about a minute for the character to die, and I took out the talking in the end. It was only 5 words, but I wasn't sure if they could be spoken if the character was busy choking and gurgling on blood!

07-23-2012, 09:50 AM
True story: Back in the 1970s, when I was in grad school at the U. of Iowa, a murder occurred at a local disco. Two drunken alpha-male type young guys got into an argument, and one (a freshman football player of no great skill) pulled a large butcher knife and ripped it up under the other guy's sternum, into the heart. Word from the medical examiner was that the victim was dead before he hit the floor.

You don't have to stab through the sternum or rib area to get to the heart, and much like a gunshot into the heart, a stab wound there can be pretty much instantly fatal.