If you’re a fan of Grey’s Anatomy like I am, you definitely have strong sentiments about a certain episode. In this episode, Meredith Grey, the protagonist’s stepmother, is ostensibly killed by hiccups.

This episode’s idea struck me as odd, as it did for many other viewers of the show. In fact, if we were to construct a list of all the things that may kill us, hiccups would likely not even make the cut.

Hiccups are typical. If you’ve ever had an excessive amount of alcohol or food in a single sitting, you’ve probably experienced hiccups. In fact, stress causes individuals to hiccup!

Given how widespread and innocuous hiccups are, the idea that hiccups could be more hazardous than we realize is somewhat shocking.

So, are hiccups genuinely fatal?

Let’s first determine what hiccups genuinely are before we get into the specifics.

What Exactly Are Hiccups?

Did you realize that the hiccup has two distinct phases? While experiencing a hiccup, the diaphragm first contracts and pulls downward. The contractions (or spasms) occur between two successive breaths and are involuntary.

After each spasm is a constriction of the voice chords. Essentially, this two-step method “creates” a glitch. In reality, the second stage is responsible for the distinctive, high-pitched “hic” sound.

What Constitutes Persistent Hiccups?

Chronic hiccups are a reality, despite the fact that most people cannot fathom hiccuping for more than a few minutes. A hiccuping episode that lasts more than two days is considered “chronic.” There is also a category for hiccups that persist more than a month. If an episode of hiccups lasts for more than a month, they are referred to as “intractable hiccups.”

Believe it or not, the longest known incidence of hiccups lasted 68 years. Charles Osbourne, who was born in 1893, endured hiccups for over seven decades.

Chronic (particularly intractable) hiccups affect 1 in 100,000 people, according to WebMD.

Persistent hiccups place a substantial burden on the body. It is exceedingly taxing and disruptive to daily activities. Middlesex Hospital physician Camielle Rizzo told Smithsonian magazine the following about the side effects of intractable or chronic hiccups: “Insomnia from having hiccups all night can be extremely distressing, and then, not surprisingly, if you haven’t slept for two to three weeks, you can become depressed and anxious. ”

Can Hiccups Be Fatal?

It doesn’t appear so. There is no concrete proof that excessive hiccups have ever resulted in a fatality.

Chronic hiccups can drastically reduce a person’s quality of life, despite the fact that hiccups alone do not cause mortality. Frequently, persistent hiccups are accompanied by serious side effects, such as an irregular heartbeat.

In addition, hiccups can be symptoms of a far more serious or untreated underlying ailment, such as gastroesophageal reflux disease (or GORD).

The similar incident occurred to Susan, Meredith’s stepmother on Grey’s Anatomy. In her situation, the GORD had gradually progressed to the point that she developed chronic hiccups.

Similarly, hiccups have been regarded as signs of a stroke. Essentially, this is what happened to Charles Osborne in 1922. When attempting to pick up a pig, Osborne lost his balance and suffered a stroke. After this occurrence, Osborne suffered with chronic hiccups until 1990.

A physician, Ali Seifi, told Smithsonian magazine that Osborne’s rapid onset of persistent hiccups may have been caused by this stroke.


Medical drama stories are not as genuine and serious as chronic hiccups, but they are entertaining to analyse and analyze.

In Grey’s Anatomy, when Meredith’s stepmother appears with a severe case of hiccups, the hospital physicians diagnose her with gastrooesophageal reflux disorder or acid reflux (GORD). In this instance, the GORD was so severe that only endoscopic gastroplication, a surgical technique, could resolve or treat it. Meredith’s mother is then brought into surgery, concluding an hour of television magic. In summary, she does not survive.

In terms of hiccups showing as a symptom of a severe form of GORD, which can develop into chronic hiccups if the underlying condition is not treated, the show was on the right track.

In a similar manner, hiccups are antecedents of a variety of other health issues. For instance, hiccups might occur in combination with intense chest pains, body-wide numbness, and blurred vision; these hiccups are likely signs of a stroke.

Okay, here’s the summary. While hiccups alone did not kill Susan Grey, we should never fully disregard them!

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