When I watch shows that have victims that were “beaten to death” what does that mean? How did they actually die, like from blood loss?

The very
short answer would be: Kinda, sorta, not really. Beaten to death isn’t a cause
of death, it’s how the victim got there. With that in mind, blood loss can be
one possible outcome (it’s just not a very likely one), however it is fairly
likely to play an important role in getting there. Specifically the major
threat here is damage to the internal organs. You’ll still bleed to death, but
very little of it will leave your body.

There
are also other potential causes of death. The one that comes to mind are embolisms.
These are situations where a blood clot breaks free in the bloodstream and gets
caught somewhere “downstream” obstructing the flow of blood. When that “somewhere”
is in the brain, it then kills the victim. These are a seriously fluke cause of
death, because there’s basically no way to cause one to occur deliberately.
They also result in situations where someone can suffer an incredibly minor
injury and drop dead a few hours later. If the character took a boot to the
head mid-beating, then the cause of death could easily be a cerebral embolism
resulting from that specific blow. Not that the coroner could pinpoint which
injury caused it. Identifying a death from an embolism is possible. however.

Of
course, the old favorite, concussions, are still on the table. We’ve talked
about these enough times before. The basic idea is that your brain bounces off
the inside of your skull, resulting in bruising on the brain itself. This is
immediately life threatening. Someone who takes a few too many blows to the
head could easily slip into a coma and never recover (or die), because of brain
damage.

As I
mentioned earlier, critical damage to internal organs can be lethal. The liver
and kidneys are basically just large meat sacks of blood. Rupturing any of
these will kill you without medical
attention. In those cases it would, technically, be bleeding to death, but
damage to the organ itself would (probably) be the official cause of death.

A broken
rib can cause a lot more damage. This (basically) gets back to critical
internal injuries, breaking the bone isn’t what kills you, it’s the broken bone
itself, punching holes in organs you were using.

Finally,
you can (theoretically) bleed to death from bruising. Without a contributing
condition (such as anemia),this isn’t a likely outcome. (I’m not certain if it’s
even possible, outside of some extreme circumstances.) Bruises are (usually) small
subdermal hemorrhages. That means, something tore tissue under the skin, and
you bled, but your skin remained intact, so the blood never left your body.

One
other thing to keep in mind about beatings; if someone’s bringing a weapon like
a crowbar or sledgehammer, those will significantly alter the potential
injuries. Someone who’s skull was caved in by an eight pound sledge might still
be described as “beaten to death,” depending on the characters involved.

-Starke

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