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I often hear people claim that it is a fact that humans lose seven pounds when they die. Some people believe that this is 'proof' of the existence of the 'soul'. Is there any truth to this claim? I could understand a weight change after death but not a consistent one between people of different sizes.

N.B. I personally don't believe this to be true. Just thought it was a good question to ask on here.

  • Eventually the body will dehydrate, causing loss of mass. But I doubt that's what the myth is about :) – jwenting Mar 19 '11 at 21:07
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    7 pounds or 7 grams? I am certain that people do not lose 7 pounds the instant they die, 7 grams would be much more difficult to measure and I would be more likely to believe that (it could happen e.g. due to evaporating more water from your skin as the properties of the tissues change.) – Roman Zenka Mar 20 '11 at 21:51
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    'proof' of the existence of the 'soul'? Since when people believe the soul has a weight?!? – Martin Scharrer Apr 27 '11 at 11:28
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    Inheritance Tax in the UK only affects large estates. If you are less than £325,000 you don't lose anything. More than that, and you can lose far, far more than 7 pounds. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inheritance_Tax_(United_Kingdom) :-) – Oddthinking May 21 '11 at 16:11
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    @MartinScharrer - See en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Duncan_MacDougall_%28doctor%29 – Jamiec Nov 7 '12 at 14:35
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No we don't. I don't know where you got that claim from because it's not linked in the question (do link it in the question, if you can).

There is a similar myth that upon dying a body weighs 21 grams less - this is due to a (flawed) experiment performed by a Dr Duncan MacDougal. His results were never replicated and are considered to have little if no scientific merit.

More info here:

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    Unfortunately it is just people I have talked to so don't have a link. It seems there is a Yahoo answers question about it but I don't feel comfortable linking to Yahoo Answers as "source". – seadowg Mar 19 '11 at 13:04
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    @Oetzi: while Yahoo answers isn't a very good source to cite in an answer, I think it'd be more OK to use it in a question, if all you're trying to show is that this is actually a phenomenon that some people believe exists. – David Hedlund Mar 19 '11 at 15:31

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