No Pulse Means Exitus YKTTW Discussion

No Pulse Means Exitus
If you don't feel a pulse, don't bother.
(permanent link) added: 2011-11-21 15:13:50 sponsor: ViktorCrowford (last reply: 2012-01-09 06:13:20)

Add Tag:
The standard procedure whenever a character (usually in crime series) discovers a corpse: They will either put their hand on the victim's wrist or neck, stare at it for two seconds, and then loudly announce their death, and also that nooone should touch anything. At this point, expect everyone in the audience who has any emergency training to cringe. Because in real life, just because you can't feel a pulse does not mean that the person is irrevocably dead. This is the very reason CPR exists - you are only supposed to use it if there is no pulse (or a very weak one in certain circumstances, but let's not be nitpicky). While not everyone in real life knows this, the amount of fictional police officers, detectives and sometimes even medical personnel who apparently never heard of modern medical emergency procedure is truly staggering. Of course, there are clear signs of death (like rigor mortis), but almost noone actually goes so far as to check for them. Sometimes even people who clearly were alive moments ago are only given the pulse check and then the coroner is called in. In even more egregious cases, just the breathing is checked, which is an even worse indicator.

This can be perfectly justified in historical settings, since the idea of someone being able to survive after breathing and circulation have stopped is fairly recent. Resuscitation was first studied in the late 18th century, and modern CPR has only been around since the 1950s.

Somewhat the other extreme of CPR (Clean, Pretty, Reliable) - instead of CPR being a miracle cure, it is apparently unknown. A subtrope of He's Dead, Jim.


  • Jonathan Creek, all the time. At least once this was used to determine the death of someone who had a heart attack literally five seconds ago.
  • Case Closed sometimes even went a step further - declaring someone dead from across the room. You'd really think at least Conan knows that not everyone who has an unblinking stare is dead.
  • Soap: Burt has a crisis of faith so he goes to talk to his old priest, now a bishop. The bishop dies via the Big Sleep while Burt is talking to him. Burt barely even checks for a pulse.

Subversions, Lampshades and Parodies:

  • In the climax of Tiger & Bunny, Barnaby pronounces Kotetsu dead. Everyone is thus shocked when he seemingly comes back to life, whereupon he points out that nobody checked his pulse.
  • In the pilot episode for The Dreamstone, Rufus checks the wrist of Pildit following an attack, and is convinced he is dead. He catches up with him alive and well shortly afterwards.
  • The Little Mermaid: After Ariel rescues Prince Eric, Scuttle checks for a heartbeat but can't make one out. Because he was checking it on his foot.

Replies: 31