This report outlines the basic procedures of an autopsy. The guidelines for the external examination are covered. Internal examination processes are also considered in this report. You’ll also learn why autopsies are important in death investigations.
The Body is Evidence
The autopsy is a very important procedure in death investigations. The best piece of evidence, the body, is thoroughly examined during this process. External and internal examinations are conducted in order to determine the cause and manner of death.
Sometimes, the cause of death is immediately obvious, other times it is not. It is essential that all suspicious deaths are comprehensively investigated. The best way to determine the cause and manner of death is by conducting an autopsy. In this process the body is methodically examined by a professional pathologist or medical examiner.
External Documentation & Examination
The autopsy begins with an external examination. When the body arrives, it is photographed when the body bag is initially opened. (Bucholtz & Lewis, 2005) This is done to document the condition of the body. Sometimes the body put through a CT scan, MRI, or X-ray prior to the autopsy. (The autopsy process, 2009) The body is placed on a special table that was made just for autopsies. It is an aluminum table that is waist high, has several faucets and drains, and is slanted with raised edges to help with draining fluids from the body. (Herz-Stahl, 2001)
After that, the external examination begins. Trace evidence from the clothing and bodily surface is collected; this is sometimes referred to as the preliminary external examination. (The autopsy process, 2009) After trace evidence is removed from the clothing, the clothes, any jewelry, and medical appliances are taken off. At this point the clothing is photographed and then carefully packaged for further examination. (Bucholtz & Lewis, 2005)
Once all clothing is removed, the body can be more accurately weighed and measured. The surface of the skin is then searched for additional trace evidence prior to washing the body. If any injuries are present, such as bullet holes or stab wounds, they would be photographed in detail prior to washing the body. (Bucholtz & Lewis, 2005) The body is then washed and photographed again.
Photography Documents the Condition of the Body
The photography process is detailed; the body is photographed overall, upper and lower halves on both the front and the back, and close-ups of any injuries or identifying features. These features would be recorded with a known area, such as a hand or the belly button. (Bucholtz & Lewis, 2005) The stage of rigor mortis and livor mortis will be noted at this time.
After the body is washed, the skin surface is inspected for any disease indicators and the orifices of the body are examined, including a rape kit if necessary. At this point any scars, tattoos, piercings, or birthmarks would be noted for identification purposes. (The autopsy process, 2009)