Death during consensual sex

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Death can occur during consensual sex for a number of reasons, generally because of the physical strain of the activity, or because of unusual extenuating circumstances. There are various euphemisms for death during sex, including "dying in the saddle" or the French "la mort d'amour".[1]

Health and physiology[edit]

Sexual intimacy, as well as orgasms, increases levels of the hormone oxytocin, also known as "the love hormone", which helps people bond and build trust.[2][3][4] Sexual activity is also known as one of many mood repair strategies, which means it can be used to help dissipate feelings of sadness or depression.[5]

A 2011 meta-analysis in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that each additional hour of sexual activity per week resulted in an increased risk of 2-3 myocardial infarctions and one sudden cardiac death per 10,000 person-years.[6] Sexual intercourse can also trigger a subarachnoid hemorrhage via the Valsalva maneuver.[7][8] A 2011 meta-analysis published in Journal of Sexual Medicine found that men who were unfaithful were significantly more likely than those who were faithful to experience severe or fatal cardiac events during sex.[9] Basilar artery dissection has also been reported in connection with sexual activity, though most coital cephalalgia is benign in nature.[10]

Deaths during consensual sex only account for approximately 0.6% of all sudden deaths.[8][11] Viagra, although generally considered to be a safe drug, has been linked to sudden cardiovascular death during sexual activity among elderly or otherwise infirm men.[11] The majority of deaths due to cardiovascular causes during sex do occur in males.[12] A number of deaths during consensual sex have been linked to the use of other prescription or recreational drugs, such as cocaine.[13]

The heart condition endothelial dysfunction is a contributing cause to both atherosclerosis and erectile dysfunction.[14] Because of the link between these conditions, rates of coronary heart disease are higher among patients with erectile dysfunction.[14] One treatment for erectile dysfunction is cGMP-specific phosphodiesterase type 5 inhibitors, which enable patients to resume having sex despite having a cardiac condition, by lowering blood pressure.[14] These drugs, including sildenafil, inhibit the action of the phosphodiesterase, allowing for a higher concentration of cyclic GMP in the penis when it is physically stimulated. Cyclic GMP is a second messenger in the nitric oxide pathway, responsible for erections via the vasodilating function of nitric oxide.[15] Sudden cardiac death can be caused by myocardial ischemia, and the physical activity of sexual intercourse in patients with coronary artery disease can result in myocardial ischemia.[14] The phosphodiesterase can act as a potentiator for other drugs which lower blood pressure and which could be used to treat heart conditions, and so may be contraindicated to prevent negative health consequences.[16]

Notable cases[edit]

Pope John XII (d. 964), who may have died during consensual sex with a mistress
  • Attila died in March 453; supposed to have died in the process of celebrating his wedding night with his new bride Ildico, from a nosebleed.
  • Pope Leo VIII died on 1 March 965; of a stroke while in the process of adultery.[17]
  • Pope John XII died on 14 May 964; one story relates that he died of a paralytic stroke suffered while having sex with a woman named Stefanetta. He may have died instead when the woman's husband defenestrated John or beat him to death with a hammer during the act.[18][19][20]
  • Lord Palmerston, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, died in 1865 following a brief illness; sources disagree about the immediate circumstances of his death. It is rumored that sex on a billiard table with a maid precipitated his demise,[18][21] but this account is disputed, with other sources stating that he died of pneumonia.[22]
  • Félix Faure, president of France from 1895 to 1899, died while receiving fellatio from his mistress, Marguerite Steinheil. The cause of death was listed as a cerebral hemorrhage. Eyewitnesses stated he was in a state of partial undress. This version is disputed by some historians.[1][21][23]
  • Cardinal Jean Daniélou, a prolific and renowned Jesuit theologian, died in 1974 inside a Paris brothel at sixty nine years of age. Although the prostitute he was visiting said he was delivering charity, this account was not believed by some.[18]
  • Sir Billy Snedden, Australian politician and former leader of the Liberal Party, "expired 'at the peak of physical congress' (as a policeman memorably told Truth)"[24] in 1987. Nineteen years later, his son (and lover of the same woman with whom Snedden was having sex at the time of his death) was quoted as saying "I'm sure the old man went out happy—anyone would be proud to die on the job."[25]
  • Nelson Rockefeller, former Vice President of the United States and heir to the Rockefeller family fortune, died in 1979 of a heart attack at age 70, rumored to be caused by an orgasm during intercourse with his secretary, Megan Marshack. The unusual circumstances surrounding his death caused New York Magazine to quip, "Nelson thought he was coming, but he was going". Contemporaneous accounts of his death differed greatly and his hasty cremation left the exact cause of death uncertain.[26]
  • Japanese writer Isamu Togawa suffered heart failure in 1983 due to his chronic arrhythmia; according to Taro Maki, Togawa died during sexual intercourse at his hotel room.[27] Togawa's younger brother Itaru Kikumura also acknowledged that Togawa died during sex, though this theory was denied by Tsuneo Watanabe.[28]
  • A woman from Houston died in 1997 after she fell from a balcony in Los Angeles during sex with her boss.[29][30]
  • In 1999, Romanian footballer Mario Bugeanu and Mirela Iancu both died of carbon monoxide poisoning while having sex in a car which they had parked in Bugeanu's garage with the engine still running.[31][32][33]
  • In 2007, the naked bodies of Brent Tyler and Chelsea Tumbleston were discovered on an empty street in Columbia, South Carolina. Their clothes were later found on the roof of a 4-story building adjacent to the road. Both had died after falling 50 feet from the downtown Columbia building.[34]
  • A York County, Pennsylvania, woman died in 2008 when she was electrocuted by homemade nipple clamps, an example of an erotic electrostimulation practice.[35] Her death was ruled a homicide.[36]
  • An Atlanta Police Department officer died in 2009 from atheroschlerotic coronary artery disease while engaged in a threesome. His widow sued his doctor and was awarded a $3 million settlement, with the jury finding that the doctor did not properly diagnose and treat the police officer's pre-existing health issues.[37]
  • In 2013, a man and woman in Zimbabwe were having intercourse outdoors when they were attacked by a lion; the woman died.[38][39]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b McConnachie, James (2010). Sex: The World's Favorite Pastime Fully Revealed. New York: Rough Guides. p. 181. ISBN 9781843537434.
  2. ^ Lee HJ, Macbeth AH, Pagani JH, Young WS (June 2009). "Oxytocin: the great facilitator of life". Prog. Neurobiol. 88 (2): 127–51. doi:10.1016/j.pneurobio.2009.04.001. PMC 2689929. PMID 19482229.
  3. ^ Riley AJ. Oxytocin and coitus. Sexual and Relationship Therapy (1988);3:29–36
  4. ^ Carter, CS. (1992). "Oxytocin and sexual behavior". Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews. 16 (2): 131–144. doi:10.1016/s0149-7634(05)80176-9. PMID 1630727.
  5. ^ Thayer, R. E.; Newman, J.; McClain, T. M. (1994). "Self-regulation of mood: Strategies for changing a bad mood, raising energy, and reducing tension". Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 67 (5): 910–925. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.67.5.910. PMID 7983582.
  6. ^ Dahabreh, Issa J. (23 March 2011). "Association of Episodic Physical and Sexual Activity With Triggering of Acute Cardiac Events. Systematic Review and Meta-analysis". JAMA: The Journal of the American Medical Association. 305 (12): 1225–33. doi:10.1001/jama.2011.336. PMC 5479331. PMID 21427375. Acute cardiac events were significantly associated with episodic physical and sexual activity; this association was attenuated among persons with high levels of habitual physical activity.
  7. ^ Fisher, Mark (2009). Stroke: Investigation and Management. Handbook of Clinical Neurology. Elsevier Health Sciences. p. 1240. ISBN 9780444520050.
  8. ^ a b Banerjee, Ashis (1996). "Coital emergencies". Postgraduate Medical Journal. 72 (853): 653–656. doi:10.1136/pgmj.72.853.653. PMC 2398623. PMID 8944205.
  9. ^ Fisher, Alessandra D.; Bandini, Elisa; Rastrelli, Giulia; Corona, Giovanni; Monami, Matteo; Mannucci, Edoardo; Maggi, Mario (1 June 2012). "Sexual and Cardiovascular Correlates of Male Unfaithfulness". The Journal of Sexual Medicine. 9 (6): 1508–1518. doi:10.1111/j.1743-6109.2012.02722.x. PMID 22510301.
  10. ^ Delasobera, B. Elizabeth; Osborn, Scott R.; Davis, Jonathan E. (July 2012). "Thunderclap Headache with Orgasm: A Case of Basilar Artery Dissection Associated with Sexual Intercourse". The Journal of Emergency Medicine. 43 (1): e43–e47. doi:10.1016/j.jemermed.2009.08.012. PMID 19818575.
  11. ^ a b Görge, Günter; Flüchter, Stephan; Kirstein, Michael; Kunz, Thomas (1 June 2003). "Sexualität, erektile Dysfunktion und das Herz: ein zunehmendes Problem". Herz. 28 (4): 284–290. doi:10.1007/s00059-003-2478-8. PMID 12825143.
  12. ^ Chen, Xiaojun; Zhang, Qingying; Tan, Xuerui (December 2009). "Cardiovascular effects of sexual activity". Indian Journal of Medical Research. 130 (6): 681–688. PMID 20090128.
  13. ^ Wells, Jamelle (11 August 2011). "Surgeon jailed over prostitute cocaine deaths". ABC AU. Retrieved 27 April 2013.
  14. ^ a b c d Cheitlin, M. D. (2005). "Sexual Activity and Cardiac Risk". The American Journal of Cardiology. 96 (12): 24–29. doi:10.1016/j.amjcard.2005.07.007. PMID 16387562.
  15. ^ Becker, Wayne M.; Kleinsmith, Lewis J.; Hardin, Jeff (2003). The World of the Cell. Benjamin/Cummings Pub. Co. pp. 269–270.
  16. ^ Drory, Y. (2002). "Sexual activity and cardiovascular risk". European Heart Journal Supplements. 4: H13–H18. doi:10.1016/S1520-765X(02)90047-7.
  17. ^ Jeremy Beadle (1978). "3 People who died during sex". In Wallechinsky, David; Wallace, Irving; Wallace, Amy (eds.). The People's Almanac presents The book of lists. Toronto: Bantam Books. p. 335. ISBN 978-0553111507.
  18. ^ a b c Shaw, Karl (2007). 5 people who died during sex & 100 other terribly tasteless lists. New York: Broadway Books. p. 60. ISBN 9780767920599.
  19. ^ Kirsch, JP (1910). "Pope John XII". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Retrieved 27 April 2013.
  20. ^ Williams, George L. (2004). Papal Genealogy: The Families and Descendants of the Popes. McFarland. p. 15. ISBN 9780786420711.
  21. ^ a b Ceilan, Cynthia (2008). Thinning the Herd: Tales of the Weirdly Departed. Globe Pequot. p. 109. ISBN 9781599216911.
  22. ^ Brown, David (2011). Palmerston. Yale University Press. ISBN 9780300168440.
  23. ^ Caulcutt, Clea (4 March 2011). "Felix Faure - a victim of Cupid in the Elysée Palace". Radio France International. Archived from the original on 19 October 2013. Retrieved 27 April 2013.
  24. ^ Frank Robson (27 September 2014). "The greatest Australian scandals of the past 30 years". Illawarra Mercury. Retrieved 23 June 2017.
  25. ^ Robinson, Russell (17 March 2009). "Sir Billy and son 'shared mystery lover'". Retrieved 23 June 2017.
  26. ^ Siegel, Lee (1 April 2012). "Rocks off!". New York Magazine. Retrieved 27 April 2013.
  27. ^ "Diary of Taro Maki 10 January 2001". Retrieved 23 June 2017.
  28. ^ "戸川猪佐武が急逝の舞台裏 銀座ホステスとK女史対立 K女史は戸川の公私の秘書," Uwasa no Shinso, May 1983, 17.
  29. ^ "Businessman Found Not Guilty in Fatal Fall Off Hotel Balcony". Los Angeles Times. 6 November 2002. Retrieved 14 November 2017.
  30. ^ Wallstin, Brian (7 September 2000). "A Deadly Passion". Retrieved 27 April 2013.
  31. ^ "Couple Dies in Hearse". Darwin Awards. 1999. Retrieved 27 April 2013.
  32. ^ McClure, Geoff (29 March 1999). "Sporting Life". The Age.
  33. ^ Shepherd, Chuck (9 May 1999). "Finding A Lawyer Won't Be Easy". The Augusta Chronicle.
  34. ^ "Friends mourn couple who fell from Columbia roof". WisTV news. 30 June 2007.
  35. ^ Stevens, Kathy (25 January 2008). "Police: Electric shock sex preceded woman's death". The York Dispatch. Archived from the original on 11 October 2013. Retrieved 27 April 2013.
  36. ^ "Coroner: Sex Electrocution Death Homicide". WGAL Susquehanna Valley. 27 March 2008.
  37. ^ Stanglin, Douglas (11 June 2012). "Cop dies during 3-way sex; widow wins $3M lawsuit". USA Today. Retrieved 27 April 2013.
  38. ^ "Lion finds Kariba couple having sex in bush, kills girlfriend, boyfriend escapes wearing condom only". My Zimbabwe. 6 March 2013. Archived from the original on 30 August 2013. Retrieved 27 April 2013.
  39. ^ "Marauding lions kill woman having sex in Zimbabwe bush". Hindustan times. 7 March 2013. Archived from the original on 16 April 2013. Retrieved 27 April 2013.