A Doctor Explains Why Everyone On 'The Walking Dead' Should Be Dead

Doctor Explains Why Everyone Onthe Walking Deadshould Be Dead

If you're a fan of ' The Walking Dead ,' you know that the world post-zombie apocalypse is a deadly, dangerous place, and not just because there are hungry, bitey corpses looking to sink their infected teeth into all your soft parts.

Hacked limbs, gouged eyes, a dwindling supply of both life-saving drugs and the people trained to administer them, not to mention the growing threat of being butchered alive by ruthless cannibals: The survivors of 'The Walking Dead' universe have faced all of these threats, and lived to tell the tale.

But how realistic, medically speaking, are these scenarios? To find out, we went back to the same doctor who helped us break down injuries on 'Game Of Thrones,' Dr. Deborah Mogelof, a physician specializing in emergency medicine... And despite how ridiculous that last article got, she still returned our calls!

So here's why (mostly) everyone on 'The Walking Dead' should be, um, dead:


Could anybody live through the ghastly process of being bopped on the head with a baseball bat, then having their throat cut and blood drained into a metal trough?

MTV NEWS: Let's start with the baseball bat. What are the practical effects of being bashed in the head with one?

DR. MOGELOF: There's a big range, in terms of what can happen here. It might be as minor as a big knot on the back of your head, or as major as a bleed inside your head that causes you to die, depending on the amount of force used and where on the head you're hit. The weakest part of the skull is the middle cranial fossa -- it's thin and has multiple foramen -- so you're more susceptible to a fracture from a swinging baseball bat in this location. (Note: This is more or less where the Termites were wacking people, which means their captives were in big trouble even before their throats were slit.)

MTV NEWS: And if you did manage to survive being wacked?

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DR. MOGELOF: You'd probably have a concussion -- a headache, nausea. There are also different kinds of bleeds that can result, which might not kill you, but will cause permanent injury.

MTV NEWS: And then there's the matter of having your throat cut.

DR. MOGELOF: That's hard to survive, if they're hitting the carotid or the jugular. The carotid will bleed out within seconds. The jugular will bleed out pretty quickly too, not as fast as the carotid, but it pumps out. So if it's an anterior cut on either side of the neck, you're going to hit one of those.

MTV NEWS: So supposing for a second that they didn't hit either...

DR. MOGELOF: If you miss major vessels, you could survive. You would need intervention, you'd have a breathing problem, but you could survive.

In summary: If Gareth's slaughterhouse team were really off their game (and got interrupted before they could turn you into a human hamburger), you might survive your turn at the trough. But considering the evidence, it seems unlikely.


Rick made good on a promise this season to kill Gareth with his red-handled machete -- making it the second time he put a bushwacking blade into somebody's skull. (The first time occurred back at the prison in the show's third season.)

MTV NEWS: For starters, how difficult is it to cleave someone's head with a machete?

DR. MOGELOF: If you're just doing a full swing with a sharp blade, you would be able to do it.

MTV NEWS: Like, me, personally? A person without any training in machete-wrangling?

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DR. MOGELOF: Yes. With a sharp blade, if you swung at someone's head, it wouldn't be difficult. I mean, people get skull fractures from running into trees, so.

MTV NEWS: And once you've cut into someone's skull with a machete, are we basically talking instant death?

DR. MOGELOF: Yeah, I think you'd become immediately unconscious, and then die. I looked this one up: With something like that, a penetrative injury to the skull, there's a 92% mortality rate.

In summary: Neither Gareth nor Tomas ever had a chance of living through their encounter with Rick and his machete.


The big cheese of Woodbury began his reign on 'The Walking Dead' with the usual number of eyeballs, but lost one (and gained his signature eyepatch) in a scuffle with Michonne. But would an injury like this be survivable in real life?

DR. MOGELOF: That's likely permanent vision loss.

MTV NEWS: Right, that makes sense. What if the blade (or in this case, piece of glass) was long enough to go all the way through the orbital and hit the brain? Would that kill you?

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DR. MOGELOF: If you penetrate the brain, you might have some damage -- it would be like having a stroke in the frontal lobe -- but I don't think you'd die.

MTV NEWS: What happens with an injury like this? Does the eyeball just... pop?

DR. MOGELOF: It would fill with blood, and it would swell. You could get what's called a globe rupture, which looks like a big bloody ball bulging out of the eye socket. Losing the vision is pretty much inevitable. Losing the eye isn't for sure, but it's likely. If that happened, you'd repair the eyelid and make a socket, and put some kind of prosthetic eye in that socket.

MTV NEWS: And if you're living in a zombie apocalypse where prosthetic eyes aren't readily available...

DR. MOGELOF: Oh, right. That's fine, it won't be a problem as long as the wound is properly sewn up.

MTV NEWS: Is this a difficult injury to live with? For instance, would the loss of an eye affect your ability to aim a gun properly?

DR. MOGELOF: If you have monocular vision, you'll definitely have depth perception problems. I don't think you can completely compensate -- you're never going to have 20/20 vision again -- but in time, your brain will figure out that you're only using one eye.

In summary, it's perfectly realistic for the Governor to have survived a stab in the eye, although his marksmanship would have definitely suffered. Also, as a side note: If you're tempted to do a google image search for 'globe rupture'... don't. Trust me.


We've seen many an amputation on 'The Walking Dead,' from Merle chopping off his own hand to Hershel losing a leg to a zombie bite. So, is having a limb hacked off as survivable as it looks on the show?

DR. MOGELOF: You'd have to make sure to do a tourniquet, so you're not losing excessive blood. And at some point, you'll need medical help to close up the wound, clean it, make sure the vessels are tied off. But absolutely, you can survive that. That guy who was rock climbing, they made a movie about it--

MTV NEWS: '127 Hours'?

DR. MOGELOF: Yeah, for example. It's definitely survivable.

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MTV NEWS: There's a scene early on in the show where a man chops off his own hand and cauterizes it on a stovetop. Is that realistic?

DR. MOGELOF: If you can remain conscious, it's definitely doable. We do the same thing in a surgical setting, that's what cautery is. We burn off the individual vessels. But using a stove, I don't think you could cauterize all the vessels in the wrist before you bleed out, you would need to tie them off individually.

MTV NEWS: Would a layperson be able to do that? Identify and tie off the vessels?

DR. MOGELOF: I think you'd need medical training. If it's been chopped off, it's all going to be kind of... mushy.

MTV NEWS: And how about the stump? What needs to happen there?

DR. MOGELOF: You have to be able to pull the skin over where it's been amputated. They leave a flap for this purpose in a surgical amputation, but there are ways to do an artificial flap. As long as two pieces of skin are coming together, it's fine.

In summary: As long as they were capably sewn up, all our amputees would still be alive and kicking... figuratively speaking, anyway.


After serving themselves a heaping helping of Bob, the Termites-turned-Hunters discover that he's been bitten by walkers.

MTV NEWS: First up, just to ask: Is there any reason why being butchered alive like this would be less survivable than a normal amputation?

DR. MOGELOF: Like would he die from the insult of it all?

MTV NEWS: ...I guess not.


MTV NEWS: And how about the cannibals? Are there risks to eating human flesh that's been infected with something?

DR. MOGELOF: There have been instances of people getting diseases, in cases of cannibalism, from eating infected people. So for instance, if someone had ebola, I don't think you'd want to eat them.

MTV NEWS: Even if you cooked them very thoroughly?

DR. MOGELOF: Most bacteria and viruses are killed at a temperature of about 145 F, but prions are not. This is what causes transmissible spongiform encephalopathies like Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (a neurodegenerative disease) and kuru. Of course there's a point at which you're so charred that nothing can survive, but... I still wouldn't eat it.

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In summary: Even if they'd cooked him well-done, eating Bob was probably a very, very bad idea.