Sunday, October 11, 2015

He would laugh to death

Historical deaths attributed to laughter

  • Zeuxis, a 5th-century BC Greek painter, is said to have died laughing at the humorous way he painted the goddess Aphrodite – after the old woman who commissioned it insisted on modeling for the portrait.
  • One ancient account of the death of Chrysippus, the 3rd century BC Greek Stoic philosopher, tells that he died of laughter after he saw a donkey eating his figs; he told a slave to give the donkey neat wine with which to wash them down, and then, "...having laughed too much, he died" (Diogenes Laertius 7.185).
  • In 1410, King Martin of Aragon died from a combination of indigestion and uncontrollable laughter.
  • In 1556, Pietro Aretino "is said to have died of suffocation from laughing too much".
  • In 1660, Thomas Urquhart, the Scottish aristocrat, polymath and first translator of Fran├žois Rabelais's writings into English, is said to have died laughing upon hearing that Charles II had taken the throne.
  • In 1893, Farmer Wesley Parsons laughed to death over a joke told in Laurel, Indiana. He laughed for nearly an hour. He then died two hours after the incident.
  • On 24 March 1975, Alex Mitchell, from King's Lynn, England, died laughing while watching the "Kung Fu Kapers" episode of The Goodies, featuring a kilt-clad Scotsman with his bagpipes battling a master of the Lancastrian martial art "Eckythump", who was armed with a black pudding. After 25 minutes of continuous laughter, Mitchell finally slumped on the sofa and died from heart failure. His widow later sent The Goodies a letter thanking them for making Mitchell's final moments of life so pleasant.  Diagnosis of his granddaughter in 2012 of having the inheritable long QT syndrome (a heart rhythm abnormality) suggests that Mitchell may have died of a cardiac arrest caused by long QT syndrome.
  • In 1989, Ole Bentzen, a Danish audiologist, died laughing while watching A Fish Called Wanda. His heart was estimated to have beaten at between 250 and 500 beats per minute, before he succumbed to cardiac arrest.
  • In 2003, Damnoen Saen-um, a Thai ice cream salesman, is reported to have died while laughing in his sleep at the age of 52. His wife was unable to wake him, and he stopped breathing after two minutes of continuous laughter. He is believed to have died of either heart failure or asphyxiation.

Yet even if there may have been an occasional death from guffawing, it's still possible merriment is far more healthy than harmful (at least for the ones who survive). Some studies assert laughing produces beneficial effects on physical health, including decreasing the secretion of serum cortisol (a stress hormone) and boosting the blood levels of immunoglobulin A, an antibody that fights bacterial and viral infections in the upper respiratory and gastrointestinal tracts. However, not everyone in the scientific community has jumped on this bandwagon: in a study reported upon in 2002 in Current Directions in Psychological Science ("Is Laughter the Best Medicine? Humor, Laughter, and Physical Health) researchers reported that the connection between humor and wellness was "less conclusive than commonly believed" and that "future research in this area needs to be more theoretically driven and methodologically rigorous."


See Laughter is the best medicine May 15, 2015

1 comment:

  1. Mainali NR, Jalota L, Aryal MR, Schmidt TR, Badal M, Alweis R. Laugh-induced
    seizure: a case report. J Med Case Rep. 2013 May 13;7:123.Abstract


    A laugh-induced seizure is an unrecognized condition and to the best of our knowledge no case has been reported in the medical literature until now. We present an interesting and extremely rare case in which laughing generated the seizure activity that was recorded and confirmed by video electroencephalography.


    A 43-year-old obese Caucasian man with history of bipolar disorder and chronic headache presented with multiple episodes of seizures, all induced by laughter while watching comedy shows. Each episode lasted approximately five seconds. In each instance, he started laughing, then his arms started shaking and he felt like 'his consciousness was being vacuumed away'. A physical examination revealed normal findings. He had been maintained on valproic acid for bipolar disorder and topiramate for his chronic headache, but this did not control his symptoms. His sleep-deprived electroencephalography and brain magnetic resonance imaging were normal except for an arachnoid cyst measuring 4.2 × 2.1cm in the anterior right middle cranial fossa. His video electroencephalography demonstrated laugh-induced seizure activities. He was then placed on carbamazepine. Following treatment, he had two episodes of mild staring but no frank seizures, and his seizures have remained well controlled on this regimen for more than a year.


    Laugh-induced seizure is a most unusual clinical entity without any previous case report. Confirmatory diagnosis can be made by video electroencephalography recording of seizure activities provoked by laughing. As in gelastic seizure without hypothalamic hamartoma, our case responded well to polytherapy with topiramate and carbamazepine on top of laugh-provocation avoidance. Further study is required to establish the standard treatment of this condition.