Chapter 9

Determining the Cause and Manner of Death: Forensic Autopsies


Bullet Introducing death: Its causes, manners, and mechanisms

Bullet Understanding the role of a forensic pathologist

Bullet Digging in to a forensic autopsy, step by step

Bullet Summing up the findings in an autopsy report

The dead do “talk,” but only figuratively. Changes that take place in the body before and after death reveal which diseases victims suffered, what trauma they endured, which toxins were present at the time of death, and much more. Autopsy, or examining a corpse to determine how death occurred, is the method used to interpret exactly what a body says.

Defining Death and Declaring It as Such

Picture yourself being buried alive. People living prior to the nineteenth century had good reason to worry about such matters, because stethoscopes hadn’t been invented, and determinations of death were more a guessing game than a scientific pursuit. A weak heartbeat meant you’d probably be pronounced dead — only to wake up while your body was being prepared for burial. Fortunately, those days are gone, but plenty ...

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