In the movie 28 Days Later (and, to a lesser extent, the graphic novels/TV series The Walking Dead), there is a character who, because of some unfortunate circumstance, found himself in a coma. When he woke, he found that the world was quite different and had no knowledge of the events which happened in the preceding four weeks. To me, this implies that the hero was in the coma for at least three weeks. When he woke, he was clearly well enough to outrun some of the infected for at least a little while.

Is that even possible? Can a coma patient survive several days unattended?

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    I think this belongs on the Science Fiction and Fantasy Stack Exchange, unless you're not interested in the zombie bit. I think this is a pretty common trope not exclusive to zombie scenarios, but still - it's a plot device more than it is a realistic scenario.
    – John Lyon
    Feb 28, 2012 at 6:06
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    @jozzas: The zombie part is not core to the question. What is really being asked is what follows his "more to the point": can a coma patient survive several days unattended? I'm partial to leaving the title unchanged, though, if only because it's major linkbait.
    – Borror0
    Feb 28, 2012 at 6:12
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    @Borror0 Quite correct. The answer to this question would be very relevant to zombie-lore (as it shows up in two prominent works in genre from the past 10 years), but the answer itself is completely independent from all questions about zombies. Feb 28, 2012 at 7:04
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    I've completely removed explicit references to zombie apocalypses and such - they were drawing close votes because they made the question sound off topic. @Borror0 I am sure we'll survive with a little less SEO, but a better site :-)
    – Sklivvz
    Feb 28, 2012 at 9:27
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    When one user changes another user's amusing title, that makes me a sad panda. Feb 29, 2012 at 6:00

1 Answer 1


Survival of three weeks is definitely not possible. The longest time you can survive under ideal conditions without drinking (or being administered) any water is projected at 10 days.

Other than that (depending on whether the depth of the coma interferes with your breathing regulation), a few days should be survivable. But I doubt you'd be in a good enough condition to outrun a zombie afterwards. Hard to find references on that, though.

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    Is that still true if someone is asleep though? Feb 29, 2012 at 16:17
  • You forgot to mention the requirement for a clean change of underwear being near the bed.
    – Ian
    Dec 10, 2012 at 12:22

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