Breathe /brēT͟H/ (verb) to move air into and out of your lungs

Air \ˈer\ (noun) the invisible mixture of gases (such as nitrogen and oxygen) that surrounds the Earth and that people and animals breathe

We, meaning humans, breathe on earth. We take in air through our nose (or mouth) into the lungs- inhale- and we release air from our lungs out through our nose (or mouth)- exhale. But that is on the earth.

What about in space? Let’s say you traveled out to space and left your spaceship without a helmet or other breathing necessities. Let’s say you tried to breathe. You can’t. There’s no air in space. There’s no air that can be inhaled through your nose and therefore there is no exhale either. So… now what?

A medical examiner would say you died by asphyxiation.

Asphyxiate / as·phyx·i·ate/ (verb) to kill or make unconscious through inadequate oxygen, presence of noxious agents, or other obstruction to normal breathing

But the use of the word “normal breathing” implies that at one point you were breathing. However, you were not breathing. Your state, once you stepped out of your spaceship, was not one of breathing and therefore there wasn’t a change of state from breathing to not breathing. Thus, death by asphyxiation isn’t quite accurate.

The argument could be made that there was a state change from being inside the ship to being outside of the ship in which you went from breathing to not breathing. In which case, death by asphyxiation is entirely accurate.

What do you think? Death by asphyxiation in this case- true or not true?

A friend of mine and I had this discussion earlier today, I thought I would share the gist of it.


2 thoughts on “Breathe

  1. First of, what an interesting topic…?

    According to the merriam-webster dictionary, the definition of Asphyxiate is “to cause (someone) to stop breathing and often to become unconscious and die.” In which case, if you went out of that spaceship and stopped breathing, “death by asphyxiation” would be the perfect term to use.


  2. Personally I agree with “death by asphyxiation.” The medical examiner is going off the state of the body. To understand why the person is now dead, and by extension a body, the medical examiner is going to look at the timeline of the person, the time before death, the time during death, and possibly the time after death (not sure about after death but hey lets roll with this). So by looking at the timeline of the body, the body was inside the ship breathing, at death the body had stepped out of the ship and couldn't breath, so cause of death gets ruled as asphyxiation.


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