Toilet-related injuries and deaths

Toilet-related injuries and deaths
A toilet with the potentially dangerous arrangement of the seat being up

There are many toilet-related injuries and some toilet-related deaths throughout history and in urban legends.

Contents

Accidents

In young boys, one of the most common causes of genital injury is when the toilet seat falls down while using the toilet.[1] Smaller children run the risk of drowning if they fall headfirst into the toilet. Injuries to adults include bruised buttocks, tail bones, and dislocated hips from unsuspectingly sitting on the toilet bowl rim due the seat being up or loose. Other injuries can be caused after slipping when standing on the toilet, or if the toilet itself collapses under the weight of the user. Pinch injuries can also occur due to splits in plastic seats, and splinters from wooden seats. Older high flush cast iron cisterns have been known to detach from the wall when flushed (by pulling a chain) causing injuries to the user. The 2000 Ig Nobel Prize in Public Health was awarded to three physicians from the Glasgow Western Infirmary for a 1993 case report on wounds sustained to the buttocks by collapsing toilets.[2] Furthermore, injuries are frequently sustained by people standing on toilet seats to reach a height. There are also instances of people slipping on a wet bathroom floor, or from a bath and concussing themselves on the fixture.

Injuries caused by animals

There are also injuries caused by animals. Some black widow spiders like to spin their web below the toilet seat because insects abound in and around it. Therefore, several persons have been bitten while using a toilet, particularly an outhouse toilet, and there is immediate pain at the bite site, though these bites are rarely fatal.[3]

It has also been reported that in some cases rats crawl up through toilet soil pipes and emerge in the toilet bowl, so that toilet users may be at risk of being bitten by a rat.[4]

Drop in blood pressure and dangerous Valsalva maneuvers

Some instances of toilet-related deaths are attributed to the drop in blood pressure due to the parasympathetic nervous system during bowel movements. This effect may be magnified by existing circulatory issues. It is further possible that people succumb on the toilet to chronic constipation, because the Valsalva maneuver is often dangerously used to aid in the expulsion of feces from the rectum during a bowel movement. According to Sharon Mantik Lewis, Margaret McLean Heitkemper and Shannon Ruff Dirksen, the “Valsalva maneuver … occurs during straining to pass a hardened stool.” “If defecation is suppressed over long periods, problems can occur, such as constipation or stool impaction. Defecation can be facilitated by the Valsalva maneuver. This maneuver involves contraction of the chest muscles on a closed glottis with simultaneous contraction of the abdominal muscles.”[5] This means that people can die while "straining at stool." In chapter 8 of their Abdominal Emergencies, David Cline and Latha Stead write that "autopsy studies continue to reveal missed bowel obstruction as an unexpected cause of death".[6]

Historical deaths

In 1945, 4 crew members died, and their submarine eventually sunk after the toilet malfunctioned and forced them to the surface. [7]

King Wenceslaus III of Bohemia was murdered by spear while sitting in the garderobe on August 4, 1306 .[8]

George II of Great Britain died on the toilet on October 25, 1760 from an aortic dissection. According to Horace Walpole's memoirs, King George "rose as usual at six, and drank his chocolate; for all his actions were invariably methodic. A quarter after seven he went into a little closet. His German valet de chambre in waiting heard a noise, and running in, found the King dead on the floor." In falling he had cut his face.[9]

Possible occurrences

  • Edmund II of England died of natural causes on November 30, 1016, though some report that he was stabbed in the bowels while attending the outhouse. Similarly, Uesugi Kenshin, a warlord in Japan, died on April 19, 1578 with some reports stating that he was assassinated on the toilet.[10]
  • Lupe Vélez committed suicide on December 13, 1944, taking an overdose of sleeping pills. She had been dating Harald Maresch, whose child she was carrying. Urban legend has it that she was found dead in her bathroom, becoming sick after taking the pills. This urban legend was popularized by Andy Warhol's 1965 film Lupe and Kenneth Anger's error-riddled book Hollywood Babylon as well as Hollywood Babylon 2. However no contemporary reports mention her dying in this fashion. At the time of her death it was reported by both media and the coroner's report that she was found in her bedroom, as if she were asleep, by her secretary Beulah Kinder.[11]
  • Lenny Bruce died of a heroin overdose on August 3, 1966 while sitting on the toilet, with his arm tied off.[12]
  • Elvis Presley was found dead on his bathroom floor on August 16, 1977. According to the medical investigator, Presley had "stumbled or crawled several feet before he died"; he had apparently been using the toilet at the time. Elvis biographer Peter Guralnick writes, "It was certainly possible that he had died while 'straining at stool.' "[13]
  • Air Canada Flight 797 was destroyed on June 2, 1983 with 23 fatalities after an in-flight fire began in or around the rear lavatory. Investigators were unable to determine the cause or exact point of origin for the fire.[citation needed]
  • Michael Anderson Godwin, a convicted murderer in South Carolina who had his sentence reduced from death by the electric chair, sat on the metal toilet in his cell while fixing his television. When he bit one of the wires the resultant electric shock killed him. Another convicted murderer, Laurence Baker in Pittsburgh, was electrocuted while listening to the television on home-made earphones.[14]
  • A collision between a disabled Cessna 182 and a row of portable toilets on May 2, 2009 at Thun Field (south-east of Tacoma), despite an engine failure at 150 feet altitude, ended without fatalities; the toilets had "kind of cushioned things" for the 67-year-old pilot.[15]
  • On March 8, 2004 actor Robert Pastorelli was found dead in his Hollywood home of a heroin overdose. The coroner's report stated that it appeared Pastorelli injected the drugs himself. His assistant found him slumped over the toilet with a syringe in his right arm and vomit on his pants. Other sources say he was found dead on the floor near the bathroom.[16]
  • Land isn't the only place toilets are located. Aboard ship the head and fittings associated with the head are cited as one of the most common reason why tens of thousands of boats of all types and sizes sink every year. [18] Heads typically have thru-hull fittings located below the water line to draw flush water and eliminate waste. Boards are sunk when fittings fail or the toilet back siphons.[19] How many have died as a result of the failure of a head is unknown.

Urban legends

Many urban legends have been reported regarding the dangers of using a toilet in a variety of situations. Several of them have been shown to be questionable. These include some cases of the presence of venomous spiders[20] (primarily due to the Australian redback spider's reputation for hiding under toilet seats[21]). In large cities like New York City, sewer rats often have mythical status regarding size and ferocity, resulting in tales involving the rodents crawling up sewer pipes to attack an unwitting occupant. Of late, stories about terrorists booby trapping the seat in order to castrate their targets have begun appearing.[22]

An urban legend with many variations recounts an "exploding" toilet. These scenarios typically include a flammable substance either accidentally or deliberately being introduced into the toilet water, and a lit match or cigarette igniting and exploding the toilet. In CSI a toilet is blown up by filling the bowl and blocking the pipe with dry ice. When the dry ice sublimated, the newly frozen water stopped the vapours from escaping, causing it to blow up. In the movie Holiday on the Buses a toilet is blown up when a lit cigarette is thrown into the pan which is filled with petrol which the characters have tried to flush away not realising it is not as dense as water.

Other common stories relate to the use of vacuums in the toilets of airplanes.[23]

Popular culture

Injuries and deaths related to toilets have been portrayed in film and other media on many occasions. These appear across many genres, from comedy to action movies:

  • Slim Newton's comic 1972 country song "Redback on the Toilet Seat" tells the story of a man who gets bitten by a venomous redback spider while using the toilet, and ends up in hospital, "a sad and sorry plight."
  • In the 1985 film Back to the Future, Doc Brown came up with the idea of the flux capacitor (which is what makes time travel possible) after slipping from his toilet to hang his clock and then bumping his head. The idea came to him in a vision he had after being knocked out.
  • In the 1991 film Nothing But Trouble the character of Miss Purdah dies while sitting on the toilet in the outhouse, which falls into a fiery hole caused by an underground coal fire.
  • In the 1998 BBC comedy series Big Train, an intergalactic tyrant (who looks like Ming the Merciless from Flash Gordon) suffers the indignity of being in a British public hospital after slipping on the mat around the toilet. A "get well card" from the people of the planet Zordon is not enough to raise his spirits, however.
  • In the 2001 Sopranos episode "He is Risen," the character Gigi Cestone, a young man, has heart attack on the toilet of his social club while straining himself to defecate after a particularly large Thanksgiving dinner.
  • In the 2003 film The Italian Job, the character Left Ear (Mos Def)'s nickname is attributed to a childhood prank involving cherry bombs in a toilet at his middle school.
  • In the 2004 film Soul Plane, a character sues the airplane company after being sucked into the toilet during flight.
  • In the Curb Your Enthusiasm episode "The Weatherman," Larry David pees sitting down because he doesn't have to turn the light on when he goes to the bathroom at night. However, Larry injures himself one night after his wife, Cheryl David (played by Cheryl Hines), forgets to put the seat down.

Linked to external factors

Toilets have been shown as a location for incidents and have caused problems in other ways:

  • In the One Foot in the Grave episode Endgame, Victor Meldrew puts a lit match down the toilet which catches fire because Margaret had been using Turps to clean the bowl.
  • In Quentin Tarantino's 1994 film Pulp Fiction, bad things happen to John Travolta's character, Vincent, every time he uses the toilet. To wit: Mia Wallace snorts and overdoses on heroin while he is in the bathroom; Butch returns to his apartment to retrieve his father's watch, and shoots Vincent (who was waiting for him) when he emerges from the bathroom; Pumpkin and Honey Bunny begin their robbery of the diner while Vincent is in the restroom.
  • In the 1999 film Boondock Saints, actor Sean Patrick Flanery as Connor MacManus is handcuffed to a toilet by Russian mob henchman. His brother, Murphy played by Norman Reedus was kidnapped by the same men and taken to the alley beside their apartment to be shot. Connor rips the toilet from the floor and walks to the top of the building, just in time to drop the toilet on the head of one henchman, jump on the other, and save his brother.
  • In the film 1989 film Lethal Weapon 2, Danny Glover's character is almost killed when sitting on the toilet that is rigged to explode when he gets off of the seat.
  • In the 2003 premiere of TV series Dead Like Me, the series' protagonist George Lass (played by Ellen Muth) is killed on her lunch break by a toilet seat which falls from the Mir space station.
  • In the 2003 film Big Fish, a character dies of a heart attack while reading Playboy on the toilet.
  • In the X-Files episode War of the Coprophages, a man is apparently attacked and killed by cockroaches while using the toilet, though Dana Scully suggests he may in fact have suffered from an aneurysm while straining.
  • In book three of the A Song of Ice and Fire series, A Storm of Swords, Tywin Lannister is killed by his son whilst sitting on the privy.
  • In the short film Rollover Training FA Style, two American soldiers knock over a portable toilet while one of their comrades unknowingly sits inside. The film, produced by a US Army unit deployed in Operation Iraqi Freedom and distributed over the internet, parodies military instructional materials.
  • In Eli Roth's 2005 Hostel movie, Paxton hears the voice of the Dutch businessman, and in Vienna follows him to a public restroom and throws the Elite Hunting's card under his stall. When the Dutch businessman reaches down to pick it up, Paxton cuts off two of his fingers, then kills him.
  • In the 2006 film Snakes on a Plane, a character is killed by being bitten on the penis by a snake hiding inside the toilet on an airplane. In another scene two youths are killed, by a number of snakes, just prior to having sex in the lavatory.

See also

References

  1. ^ "Genital injury". MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000044.htm. Retrieved 2005-12-20. 
  2. ^ Wyatt JP, McNaughton GW, Tullett WM (December 1993). "The collapse of toilets in Glasgow". Scottish Medical Journal 38 (6): 185. PMID 8146638. 
  3. ^ See, for instance, Raymond W. Thorp and Weldon Dwight Woodson, Black Widow: America's Most Poisonous Spider (The University of North Carolina Press, 1945), p.65, 156, 188. "Yikes! Black widow spider bites man right were it hurts." Weekly World News, November 7, 1989. James A. Wilkerson, "Black Widow Spider Bites." In Medicine for Mountaineering & Other Wilderness Activities (2001), p.298.
  4. ^ See Woman on toilet attacked by rat; Rogue rats savage woman on toilet.
  5. ^ See Sharon Mantik Lewis, Margaret McLean Heitkemper, Shannon Ruff Dirksen, eds., Medical-Surgical Nursing: Assessment and Management of Clinical Problems, 6th edition, Volume 2 (2004), p.951.
  6. ^ David Cline and Latha Stead, Abdominal Emergencies (2007), p.56-65
  7. ^ http://www.wired.com/thisdayintech/2011/04/0414toilet-malfunction-sinks-u-boat/ April 14, 1945: Tweaky Toilet Costs Skipper His Sub, by Tony Long, April 2011
  8. ^ See Charles Edmund Maurice, The Story of Bohemia from the Earliest Times to the Fall of National Independence in 1620 (1896), p.117
  9. ^ See Horace Walpole, Memoires of the Last Ten Years of the Reign of George the Second (1822), vol. 2, p. 454.
  10. ^ See Jack Seward, Strange But True Stories from Japan (1999), p.231.
  11. ^ "The Straight Dope". http://straightdope.com/mailbag/mlupevelez.html. Retrieved 2007-12-11. 
  12. ^ See Jonathan Goldstein, Lenny Bruce is Death (2010).
  13. ^ Peter Guralnick, Careless Love: The Unmaking of Elvis Presley (1999), p.651-652.
  14. ^ Shepherd, Chuck. News of the Weird, Miami New Times. 23 January 1997. Accessed 25 September 2011.
  15. ^ US plane crash lands on toilets, BBC News, 2 May 2009
  16. ^ See “ 'Murphy Brown' Housepainter Dies,’ ” CBS News, February 11, 2009, and Richard Cameron, Famous People Who Dropped Dead (2010), p.16.
  17. ^ Senior Tory Christopher Shale found dead at Glastonbury festival, guardian.co.uk, Sunday 26 June 2011
  18. ^ http://www.yachtsurvey.com/sinking.htm How to keep your boat form sinking, By David Pascoe
  19. ^ http://www.gslmarina.com/WhySailboatsSink/tabid/80/Default.aspx Why sailboats sink, Boat Owners Association of The United States, 2007
  20. ^ Mikkelson, Barbara & David P. "Toilet Spiders" at Snopes.com: Urban Legends Reference Pages.
  21. ^ "Redback Habitat and Life Cycle". Queensland Museum. http://www.qmuseum.qld.gov.au/features/spiders/redback-habitat.asp. Retrieved 2005-12-20. 
  22. ^ Mikkelson, Barbara & David P. "The Salami Slicer" at Snopes.com: Urban Legends Reference Pages.
  23. ^ Mikkelson, Barbara & David P. "Stuck on You" at Snopes.com: Urban Legends Reference Pages.

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