Atlas of Forensic Pathology





C D Figure 3.2. Death scene appearance versus autopsy appearance. At the scene, it is good to take photos of the body to include postmor tem changes and injuries. From the time of the death scene investigation to the time of the autopsy, the appearance of both injuries and postmortem change can change, and the additional set of photographs can help the forensic pathologist interpret changes. In ( A ), at the scene, there was minimal maggot activity at the head of an individual with a self-inflicted gunshot wound; however, at the time of autopsy ( B ), there was prominent maggot activity. In ( C ), the decedent was found face-down, and when turned over, was noted to have prominent purple lividity on the anterior surface of the body; however, by the time of autopsy ( D ) the unfixed lividity had re-distributed.

FAQ: Can a postmortem temperature be taken at the scene?

Answer: While caution must be exercised using body temperature to determine time of death, it does provide an objective measurement compared to the poten tial subjective interpretation of blanching versus fixed lividity, or the degree of rigor mortis present. While a postmortem temperature can be obtained rectally at the death scene, usually, when the determination of time of death is most impor tant to an investigation, the manner of death is often a homicide, and obtaining a rectal temperature at the scene would impair future collection of evidence of sexual activity. One potential method for obtaining a postmortem temperature at the scene is insertion of a thermometer into the liver. This method avoids contact ing the mouth or anus and thus would not hinder future collection of evidence. The area can be photographed to show the unaltered state of the skin overlying the liver, a tiny nick in the skin made, and a thermometer, such as a standard kitchen meat thermometer, inserted and the temperature obtained. Some forensic pathologists oppose this method; however, done as above, the method should not create any significant artifacts. The track created by the thermometer can be identified in the liver parenchyma, and there will be little, if any, bleeding. Copyright © Wolters Kluwer, Inc. Unauthorized reproduction of the content is prohibited. 2023

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