View Full Version : [Medical] Modern Medicine and Crucifixion?

06-09-2016, 06:03 AM
This is probably a super weird and possibly offensive question, but, hypothetically, if someone is crucified (let's assume just like Jesus except maybe without the spear to the ribs and all the torture beforehand, just straight-up nailed to an actual wooden cross with big square nails) and hung up for about ten or fifteen minutes before being rescued, and they were brought into a hospital, what kind of medical procedures and physical therapy might be required for the recovery process?

This would take place in 2013 in Texas, and the hospital is a big city hospital, not a rural one. The nails are through his wrists and not through the hands, and they didn't nail his feet, only tied them tight with rope and he had a sort of plank he could almost reach with his tippy-toes.

My main questions would be would he need surgery? Tetanus shot? What kind of recovery time might the character be looking at for a full recovery?

I've been looking online everywhere and can't find any documentation about how something like this might be treated with modern medicine. And it's not really something I want to call my local hospital and ask either... Sorry if this is offensive to anyone

Siri Kirpal
06-09-2016, 07:40 AM
Sat Nam! (literally "Truth Name"--a Sikh greeting)

Tetanus shot for sure, unless the person had had one recently.

More knowledgeable people will have to weigh in on the rest of it.


Siri Kirpal

Katharine Tree
06-09-2016, 08:14 AM
I'm from Indiana and there are people there who crucify themselves for Easter. Really.

Tetanus shots if they aren't up to date, antibiotics, wound dressing, and since this wasn't a willing victim, probably some sort of psychological observation and follow-up counseling.

06-09-2016, 04:54 PM
The wounds from a Roman crucifixion - the actual nailing to the cross part - aren't why it was used. Roman crucifixion was intended as a slow, horrible way to kill someone by causing fluid to build up in the lungs and eventually drown them (iirc). It was a criminal's execution and the position they were hung in allowed them to struggle to breath for many hours by fighting to lift themselves up with their shoulder muscles. However, the shoulder muscles would eventually cramp (which, if you've ever had a true muscle cramp, you know how painful those are) and the person would have to continue using those muscles every time they wanted to take a breath. The centurions often let it go on for however long they were supposed to, then broke the crucified person's legs so they could no longer lift themselves up enough to breathe. That way they could finish up the execution and go home.

As Katherine pointed out, people around the world crucify themselves every Easter but they aren't left up there very long. The wounds are fairly minimal given access to good medical care.

06-10-2016, 02:59 AM
If they were only up for 15 minutes, the only medical problems would be where the nails went in.

BTW, they would also have to be tied to the cross. The nails would rip out of hands if they supported all the weight. The nails are for extra awfulness.

Aerial's got the details right about historical application. It was a really terrible way to die. Roman citizens had the right to not be subjected to it. (Most people in the empire were not citizens)

06-11-2016, 05:17 AM
That's exactly what I was looking for guys. Thanks so much! I did write him being tied as well as nailed actually so that works out great. So for the medical part of it, I'm thinking he wakes up in the hospital with his hands and wrists wrapped up. He lost feeling in both hands but the doctor says after some physical therapy he should make a full recovery. And I'd expect the psychological harm would outweigh the physical in this instance too, so he'd likely need some counseling.

06-11-2016, 07:47 PM
The experienced crucifixioner didn't nail the hands but between the radius and ulna just proximal to the wrist. There's plenty of structural integrity there to support the weight of the body. Unfortunately that's also where the median nerve enters the carpal tunnel at the level of the wrist so there could be significant damage to that nerve resulting in pain, parasthesias even paralysis of the muscles that it serves lasting years. Think worst case carpal tunnel syndrome. Best case just the bleeding and infection as above posters have pointed out.

06-11-2016, 08:28 PM
AW member, Calla Lily, wrote a book called The Redeemers (https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=the+redeemers+kate+morgan&rh=i%3Aaps%2Ck%3Athe+redeemers+kate+morgan), that deals with this very issue. Might be worth picking up a copy.

06-12-2016, 10:39 AM
If you nail someone to a cross by their hands and feet they'll fall off. It was actually done via the wrists and ankles. There's a danger of hitting a major artery in the process. .......Just scrolled up and seen that GeorgeK has said basically the same thing, but in more detail and with more medical info. So just seconding his response really.

06-17-2016, 10:27 PM
They'd get xrays to see if there's any underlying damage, probably some other imaging for soft tissue injuries. Chances are there had been either nerve/tendon/bone damage that would require surgery to fix. There'd likely be some permanent disability in the hands, either by loss of feeling, loss of grip strength, control, ect.

06-20-2016, 11:12 PM
As Katharine mentioned, there are thousands of people (http://www.cnn.com/2016/03/25/asia/philippines-easter-good-friday-crucifixion/) today who practice voluntary crucifixion as part of Easter religious devotional practices. Some people do it every Easter for years, so it seems like it doesn't necessarily leave lasting (physical) harm.

Mary Roach's book Stiff has some fascinating information on the science behind the hand versus wrist debate.