Medicine News of the Weird

Update on water intoxication death

A couple of days ago, I commented on the sad case of Jennifer Strange, the woman who entered a water drinking contest and died, apparently of water intoxication. While listening to the radio this morning as I got ready for work, I heard pundits discussing the case, and one of them stated that she had drunk over two gallons of water in the course of the contest. I’ve been unable to confirm that Strange did indeed drink that much water, but, if true, that would be around 8 L of water in a short period of time and would be enough to explain her death.

The DJ also mentioned that the Sacramento radio station had taken the morning radio show off the air while an investigation occurs. It sounds as though the radio station is going to try to scapegoat the DJs. I find it very hard to believe that the station’s program director and other management didn’t sign off on this contest before it went on the air, particularly given that it’s been reported that contestants had to sign legal waivers before participating.

I will continue to keep an eye out for more details and, if appropriate, post on this case again.

ADDENDUM: According to this AP report, the radio station did not warn the contestants that drinking a lot of water in a short period of time could result in death, and a nurse apparently called the station to warn them that the contest was dangerous:

SACRAMENTO – Two people who competed in a radio station’s water drinking contest with a 28-year-old mother of three who later died said they were never warned they were putting their health at risk, a newspaper reported Monday.

Gina Sherrod said that family members listening in on KDND-FM’s “Hold Your Wee for a Wii” contest told her that a nurse called into the program to warn that drinking too much water was dangerous, but that she did not worry until she learned of Jennifer Lea Strange’s death.

“I was so scared,” Sherrod told The Sacramento Bee on Sunday. “I had the hardest time going to sleep last night because I was afraid I wouldn’t get up.”


Fellow contestant James Ybarra said he quit drinking after imbibing eight bottles, but Stange, who placed second, and others kept going even after they were handed even larger containers.

Strange showed other participants photographs of her two sons and daughter, for whom she was hoping to win the Nintendo Wii, Ybarra said.

“It is sad that a mother had to lose her life to get something for her kids,” he told The Bee. “None of us knew this could be a risk to our health.”

If confirmed, this is looking more and more like criminal negligence to me.

By Orac

Orac is the nom de blog of a humble surgeon/scientist who has an ego just big enough to delude himself that someone, somewhere might actually give a rodent's posterior about his copious verbal meanderings, but just barely small enough to admit to himself that few probably will. That surgeon is otherwise known as David Gorski.

That this particular surgeon has chosen his nom de blog based on a rather cranky and arrogant computer shaped like a clear box of blinking lights that he originally encountered when he became a fan of a 35 year old British SF television show whose special effects were renowned for their BBC/Doctor Who-style low budget look, but whose stories nonetheless resulted in some of the best, most innovative science fiction ever televised, should tell you nearly all that you need to know about Orac. (That, and the length of the preceding sentence.)

DISCLAIMER:: The various written meanderings here are the opinions of Orac and Orac alone, written on his own time. They should never be construed as representing the opinions of any other person or entity, especially Orac's cancer center, department of surgery, medical school, or university. Also note that Orac is nonpartisan; he is more than willing to criticize the statements of anyone, regardless of of political leanings, if that anyone advocates pseudoscience or quackery. Finally, medical commentary is not to be construed in any way as medical advice.

To contact Orac: [email protected]

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