Marine Turtle Trauma Response Procedures:  A Veterinary Guide

Terry Norton and Nancy Mettee (Editors). 2020. WIDECAST Technical Report No. 20.

Death Criteria

Determination of death may be difficult. Pulses can rarely be palpated even in robust individuals and electrocardiography can be unreliable. Declaration of death should be left only to experienced individuals as a comatose or moribund turtle may often incorrectly be presumed dead by a layperson. The heart can continue to beat long after death, especially by euthanasia.

The following are some criteria which are used to establish death. A minimum of six are considered necessary to declare death:

No spontaneous movement

Lack of palpebral reflex 

Lack of corneal reflex 

Lack of gag reflex 

Loss of cloacal tone 

Ultrasonic confirmation of cardiac arrest 

Rigor mortis 

No pulse audible on Doppler flow meter

No pulse visible on EKG

This chapter should be cited: Norton, Terry and Nancy Mettee. 2020. Death Criteria, in Terry Norton and Nancy Mettee (Editors), Marine Turtle Trauma Response Procedures: A Veterinary Guide. WIDECAST Technical Report No. 20. Accessed [date]. 

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