I am sure dear readers that you all, like me, are avid Game of Thrones fans. For those of you who aren’t in the know, Game of Thrones is an HBO show based on the books by George R.R. Martin. Both the books and the show are hopelessly addictive, and incredibly violent (the show a bit more so). I mean, it is some pretty absurd violence. I actually laugh out loud at the absurdity of it sometimes (not because I think violence is funny, but because they are super creative at finding ridiculous ways to make deaths as creative and gory as possible).
Anyway, back to the point of this post. For some reason, this season it really struck just how often characters on the show die with their eyes open. Seriously, I haven’t crunched the numbers (cause I have a life, sorry) but I’m willing to bet the large majority of characters we see die still have their eyes open. And it’s not just Game of Thrones, this seems to happen a disproportionate amount in TV and movies. Now I understand, this makes a death more shocking and disturbing because people who are dead are supposed to look like they’re sleeping and eyes open makes them look haunted or like they could still be alive. But it did get me wondering, exactly how common is it for someone to die with their eyes still open? So I did some digging.
Turns out, I’m not the only one who’s been curious about this topic. In fact, a study in 2009 sought to answer this exact question. They only looked at 100 people, but would you really want to sit there and watch more than 100 terminally ill people take their last breaths? They discovered that 63% of patients died with their eyes fully closed. Those who died with their eyes open were much more
likely to have some sort of neurological problem, like a brain tumor. They found no relationship between dying with eyes open and any sort of recent emotional turmoil or religious affiliation, so just because someone dies with their eyes open don’t automatically assume they were a devil worshiper.
Now unfortunately they did not also do a study on the likelihood of dying with your eyes open if the cause of death was disembowelment. Insert joke about the difficulty of finding volunteers here. So I still do not know how realistic those deaths are. But in the case of say, poison, which could potentially do severe neurological damage, then it wouldn’t be too far-fetched. But from now on, if I see any character die with his/her eyes open, I’m just going to have to assume they had some sort of brain tumor and therefore wouldn’t have lasted much longer anyway.