What medical problems might a resurrected person have that would be annoying but not completely debilitating, focusing on the joints and bones specifically? Yes, this is a magic world, but I want to do things that do make sense, in some way and track logically if at all possible.

There are lots of sci-fi & fantasy genres which feature resurrection of a dead character, whether through science or through magic, but often (and especially in video games) there are no side-effects to being res'd.

So, as part of my world, I want to have dead people be alive again (not necromancy, actually alive, with all the things that normally come with that) but I want to make sure that there are consequences for being res'd--and not just losing all your stuff or it being expensive--but actual medical problems as result of the process. There are lots of different flavors of medical problems they can have, but I thought I would focus on a particular area (joints & bone) and see what y'all might come up with, considering that:

  • Bones fall apart pretty quickly. Does this mean that there are more joint issues the older the corpse is?
  • Bones might lose something that they can't regain quickly after the process, which may explain why there are problems

How it works: Several people have asked how this works in my world, so here's a little background, in case you need it.

You have to have all the skeleton or the dust representing the skeleton for all the parts to come back. If an arm is cut off prior to death, as long as you have the arm bone, along with the rest of the body, then body is knit back together with the arm. Flesh, blood and organs can be missing, but will be restored completely. Bones or the components for the original bones (like bone dust) have to be present in order for them to be rebuilt.

The bones in this particular magical world are the framework/structure. They are more important than all the other stuff and can't be replicated--they are needed as the component for a complete rez (you'll see this in other magical worlds, where you just need the heart or whatever). Also, there are lots of other problems that could come from organs, but I am focusing on the skeletal system, to narrow this question & because it is so important to the ritual.

  • $\begingroup$ Is this resurrection a "reset" of the body to an earlier state? (For instance, if someone's arm were cut off before they died, would it be restored during resurrection?) Is there a time limit on how long someone can be resurrected after dying? Both of those could be fairly significant to your story/world, and could affect answers here. $\endgroup$
    – Draconis
    Jan 15, 2017 at 2:45
  • $\begingroup$ @Draconis as long as you have the arm, it would be restored. If you didn't it wouldn't be. No time limit, well--there needs to be material left. $\endgroup$ Jan 15, 2017 at 3:04
  • $\begingroup$ So this type of resurrection restores life to dead flesh, and connects the pieces back together, but doesn't restore anything that was missing? $\endgroup$
    – Draconis
    Jan 15, 2017 at 3:06
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    $\begingroup$ Rheumatoid arthritis... in live and afterlife! $\endgroup$
    – user6760
    Jan 15, 2017 at 3:40
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    $\begingroup$ An interesting concept! It'd certainly put a whole new meaning to signing Do Not Resuscitate papers! $\endgroup$
    – Cort Ammon
    Jan 15, 2017 at 3:44

2 Answers 2


Starting with the OP's proposition that resurrection requires the whole skeleton of the person to be resurrected, it seems reasonable, that irrespective of age, that the body can be restored to a viable form. In this case, a viable form means a living, breathing human being. The sort if you ran a sword through their gizzards they'd die all over again. And need to be resurrected again. Or is more than once cheating?

This suggests that if your resurrection persons performed their dark arts on, for example, a thousand year old skeleton that flesh, organs and other tissues will be brought back into existence around the bones of the skeleton.

This in itself, suggests one possible problem. Namely, that the bones will need to be carefully arranged in their proper positions for the newly resurrected body be correctly constituted. No-one wants their fingers or toes on backwards, But considering the OP said resurrection was possible even if only bone dust remained, this suggests the bony fragments will rearrange themselves in their correct anatomical locations and positions during resurrection. If not, the results might be an anatomical mess. Perhaps the resurrection reconfiguration might be a normal part of the process, but the right results aren't always guaranteed. This could be problem number one: bits not in their right places and the attendant problems to go that those issues.

The OP has specified that not all the organs need to be there. This would lead to no end of medical issues for any resurrected person. They could easily range from the merely inconvenient, through the absurdly embarrassing, to the down right life threatening. Heart or liver missing! Oops!

Details of the resurrection process made no mention of how effective this is on resurrecting the bones and skeletal structure itself. If bone dust can be used for resurrection, hopefully the resurrectee won't end up with a pulverized skeleton. Dust instead of sold bones to keep everything held together. Also, the strength of the skeleton might not be restored to what it was in its previous life. Osteoporosis might be the bane of resurrectees.

Falls that easily break bones might be a constant problem. That also means staying out of sword swinging fights or bar room brawls.

This answer assumes any problems with joints and connective tissues adhering to bones and skeleton will be of the same order as missing organs, tissues and other fleshy bits. Although what may be of more concern is whether bone marrow can be resurrected to its full, proper function. This is the source of blood cells and immune factors. There could be ongoing problems with infections and a variety of blood conditions. Immunodeficient resurrectees could have lots of health issues to cope with, this means they effectively would suffering from leukemia. Not necessarily, it's most severe forms, but there are milder forms of the condition that present major health risks. As the author of this answer knows, having lost a good friend to such a condition.

Because this osteoregenesis process of resurrection is magic-based, it is difficult to determine its full limits, except in a speculative manner, for example, a powerful enough magic could overcome all possible defects and deficiencies. The OP would be advised to construct a set of rules governing this resurrection process. This will make it more tractable, orderly and conceptually well behaved. For example, the limits related to the age of the skeleton (from time of death). The probability of resurrection succeeding based on the percentage of bones available. The effects of bone dust as this could be more efficacious than whole bones. Pulverizing bones might be an additional magic art with its own guild of practitioners. Whether having available sufficient flesh will aid or hinder of a successful resurrection. Indeed, make up your own rules to make resurrection lawful and well behaved. Also, you can build in the rules you need to lead to unwanted medical side-effects and other possible conditions.

  • $\begingroup$ A skeleton that's all there in whatever form, dust or otherwise, is all that's needed. Organs and everything else will be rebuilt regardless of whether they are there or not. Having only skeleton dust ups the difficulty for the caster and will cause problems. Should you have a pile of bones, they will reassemble in their correct configuration, but if you can put the together where they belong it helps the process. Good answer! +1 $\endgroup$ Jan 15, 2017 at 5:16
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    $\begingroup$ @ErinThursby This is what I mean about having rules. You can think about what does and doesn't work, and know the outcome. That's why I added the seemingly contrary concept that skeleton dust might resurrection easier. Sometimes it's a good idea to make the logic go to unexpected places. Makes sure the reader wasn't nodding off. $\endgroup$
    – a4android
    Jan 15, 2017 at 5:28
  • $\begingroup$ The immune system stuff is definitely something I hadn't considered, but makes a lot of sense. $\endgroup$ Jan 15, 2017 at 20:53
  • $\begingroup$ @ErinThursby if I raised something you hadn't considered, then that makes answering your question more than worthwhile. Now have fun with necromancy. $\endgroup$
    – a4android
    Jan 15, 2017 at 23:10

Well, as far as decomposition goes, it depends on how "alive" you want your zombies to look. If you look at a forensics decomposition chart, you can decide how long the body can sit before it is impossible to revive. Does it have to be within the first minutes after their heart stops beating (fresh stage), or when the body starts bloating? Say you decide their body has to be revived within the first 48 hours. Will their body continue to decompose? If so, then they have a time limit. In a hot climate, it can take only 2 weeks for a body to be reduced to skin, cartilage, or bones. In a cold climate, the process can take over 2 years. Anyway, if you decide that the resuscitated don't decompose as they continue to "live", I think a time limit would still be beneficial, because then your character gets faced with a tough moral question: Is it worth it? Living another 2 months, years, etc. Or are they alive forever? Watching loved ones die? What if only certain people could be revived, so revived people don't necessarily get to live with loved ones. Where are the skeletons on the social ladder? Are they above normal people, or below? Do they need any basic necessities? Are they forced to get jobs? Does what the skeletons died of- does that effect their health after they are revived? Are normal people afraid of them? (Religiously, do people still believe in reincarnation?) Do the skeletons get shunned and form their own towns/society? How would this function, especially if they don't need food?

I could go on and on, but hopefully this helps you form your story :o)

Good luck! Madeline

  • $\begingroup$ There's no "living" with quote marks, they are alive. (I said no necromancy. That means no zombies). Please re-read the question, as most of what you have answered here does not actually apply to the question asked. These are not just skeletons walking around. From the question: " Flesh, blood and organs can be missing, but will be restored completely." ALL I AM ASKING IS: what possible medical effects will resurrection have on the skeleton of a person. You can edit to answer. See you are new. $\endgroup$ Jan 15, 2017 at 22:32

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