Reasons Why Vomiting Before Death Can Occur

Published March 9, 2020
Woman on hospital bed feeling sick

While the possibility of vomiting prior to death is fairly low, there are some reasons why a person may begin to do so prior to passing away. Knowing who is most at risk for vomiting prior to passing can help you be as prepared as possible for their death.

Why Vomiting May Occur Prior to Death

Vomiting before death can be associated with a few medications and illnesses. Someone may be experiencing a combination of factors that can lead to vomiting as well.


With some forms of cancer, there is anecdotal evidence that someone may projectile vomit right before passing away. According to allnurses forum, some have seen hospice patients vomit prior to passing away. They surmise it may be due to a stomach obstruction, pain medications, muscle relaxations, and some organs may be reacting to a buildup of toxins.

Ambulatory chemotherapy

Cardiac Arrest

Vomiting has been seen in about 7% of individuals who later experienced cardiac arrest. This occurred within a 90-minute period making vomiting a direct warning sign, amongst others, that a cardiac arrest may take place.

Aortic Aneurysm

An aortic aneurysm is a swelling or bulge in the aorta. One of the warning signs of an aortic aneurysm is vomiting. This can occur due to extreme pain and nausea that can accompany a burst. Of those who experience an aortic rupture, 90% pass away from it.


Someone who has overdosed on drugs or alcohol, or a combination of the two, may pass out and vomit in their sleep. This can lead to immediate death and other life threatening issues if they choke on their vomit and obstruct their airway. Vomiting due to overdose can be a direct cause of death or serious harm to individuals who are not treated immediately.

Sudden Death after Vomiting

There are cases where sudden death can occur right after vomiting. This can feel shocking to family members who may be taken aback by the sudden passing of a loved one. Although it can feel scary to learn about, knowing when vomiting can be deadly can help you or others seek medical treatment as quickly as possible. A subarachnoid hemorrhage can lead to a stroke and eventually a sudden death. Nausea, vomiting, and a quick onset of an extremely painful headache can take place right before.

Preparing Yourself Emotionally

It can feel heartbreaking to watch a loved one get sick and it can be especially challenging to see a loved one vomit prior to passing away. This can take a toll on you emotionally. If your loved one is going through this, be sure to prioritize your self-care and check in with yourself often if they are in the process of passing away. It can be easy to push emotions aside if they feel incredibly painful, but processing your feelings can help you move through this period in a healthier way. It is completely normal to feel overwhelmed, so reach out for help and support as needed.

Two women hugging during a support group meeting

To increase your self-care during this stressful time you can:

  • Join a support group
  • Connect with friends and family members who love you
  • Spend time with animals
  • Make sure you are getting enough sleep
  • Speak with a counselor or therapist about your experience

Understanding Vomiting Before Death

It can take some people aback to see their loved one vomiting, especially if they were generally healthy or have been unresponsive in the hospital for some time. Knowing what illnesses or scenarios can cause vomiting prior to death can help you feel a bit more prepared if your loved one goes through this.

Reasons Why Vomiting Before Death Can Occur