Sunday, June 18, 2006

Crime Scene Investigation

Next wednesday, I will have to do an exam on Forensic Medicine. So I will be studying this kind of 'weird' subject for the next 3 days. The course syllabus is full of interesting facts and figures that I think would appeal to a very broad group of people, not just (future) doctors. And that's why I'm planning to post such 'little facts' everytime I stumble upon them from now on. I will add them in this post by editing it, so if you're interested, be sure to check it out once in a while.
Let's roll.

D A Y...O N E
09:10 PM
: Our first 'interesting fact' was found in the 'early corpse phenomena'- section of the syllabus. Probably, most people know that when a person dies, discharge of faeces and urine may occur immediately after death. However, what I think most of you don't know, is that a seminal discharge is also possible. This is sometimes mistaken for a sign of sexual activity just before death, thus leading to the wrong conclusions about the cause of death.

00:05 AM : Time for a little information on 'late corpse phenomena'. During lifetime, our bodies are colonized by millions of bacteria, mostly located in the oral and nasal cavities and in the large bowel. The body needs those bacteria, for example to assist in the digestion process. Those bacteria are harmless because they are closely guarded and under control by our immune system. But when you die, these defensive mechanisms exist no more, and the bacteria that you once so kindly hosted, are now able to multiply incontrollably. They just go berserk on your body. They are even the main actor in the decaying process! So when a person took a lot of antibiotics just before he died, killing most of the bacteria, the decay process goes slower. On the contrary, when one dies of a serious infection (e.g. burst appendix), putrefaction occurs blazingly fast! Cheesy huh.

01:12 AM : The deadly poison that rotting corpses were thought to discharge, sometimes referred to as 'dissection poison' or 'ptomain' is just a fable. It doesn't really exist. The putrid liquids discharging from a corpse are just made up of molecules resulting from protein degradation. It should however still be handled with caution due to the fact that it might be contaminated with bacteria or viruses.

02:55 AM : Sarggeburt (German, literally 'coffin birth') : Forensic term to describe the phenomenon of a female corpse giving birth to a child that it was carrying. This grotesque event can occur even a few days after the moment of death, hence the grim term 'coffin birth'... It can be explained by the rotting gases that build up pressure inside the corpse, thereby pressing organs and other internal structures - in casu an unborn child - towards natural openings in the body.

D A Y...T W O
07:30 PM : The most dangerous room in your house is ... the bathroom. You can die in all kinds of stupid accidents but more important, you can kill yourself in the largest amount of ways. Let's just make a quick inventory of all the dangerous elements present in your bathroom and you'll agree : large amounts of water (drowning), boilers (CO intoxication), electricity - especially in combination with all the water (electrocution), hard edges and a slippery floor (blunt traumata), drugs (self-poisoning), sharp objects (razorblades, scissors to cut your wrists) ... You see?

01:24 AM : Analyzing the data of several autopsy studies, forensic experts assume that for every discovered murder, another one stays unnoticed. This is largely due to the fact that, according to these experts of course, way too little autopsies are performed.

D A Y...T H R E E
08:30 PM : When somebody drowns to death, he doesn't get killed just by the water in his lungs preventing O2 - CO2 exchange. Drowning in fresh water is totally different from drowning in salt water. In the first case, the fresh water arriving in the lungs is quickly sucked into the bloodstream (via pulmonary capillaries) due to its low salt concentration compared to the blood (this is a law of nature called osmosis). This sudden extra load of volume entering the blood stream, causes the heart to fail. Also, the important dilution of the blood makes the red blood cells suck up more blood (osmosis again) then they can take, resulting in bursting of the red blood cells. The potassium they contained enters the bloodstream and can cause dangerous heart arrhytmias. These two conditions (heart failure and potassium induced arrhytmias) cause death in about 5 minutes.
Now let's take a closer look at the mechanisms involved in salt water drowning. When the salt water enters the lungs, the opposite happens : osmosis causes the blood from the pulmonary capillaries to be sucked into the lungs, due to the higher salt concentration in the lungs. As a result, the lungs get filled with a mixture of blood and water. This condition causes death in approximately 10 minutes. Gulp!

11:24 PM : When you hang yourself or get strangled to death, you don't get killed by compression of your airways, but because the blood supply to your head is cut off. I think a lot of people don't know that. Correct me if I'm wrong.

00:54 PM : Not a single scientist or forensic expert knows exactly how long it takes to strangle a person to death. Of course not! However, estimations have been made based on killer testemonials. For instance, the testemonial of serial killer Richard Speck, bragging : "Strangle a person? It ain't like you see on TV. You have to go at it for about 3 1/2 minutes!"

D A Y...F O U R..:..E X A M
It went very well. First I had to describe CO intoxication, and then I had to 'solve' a rather clear cut case of an old lady, found in a deep coma at the bottom of the stairs (cerebral haemorrhage). So you see there's also a (much bigger) lot of boring stuff in the syllabus...



Blogger Guelep said...

who knows, maybe soon you'll be starring on CSI ;-)

8:20 PM  
Blogger Skullforger said...

As long as they let me play the part of a black person.

2:55 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home