timedeath - Department of Forensic Medicine University of...

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Department of Forensic Medicine, University of Dundee Lecture Notes Time of Death Quotations Time of Death Post mortem changes: Cooling , Rigor Mortis , Post Mortem Lividity , Putrefaction , Adipocere , Mummification , Maceration , Vitreous potassium POSTMORTEM CHANGES AND TIME OF DEATH Quotations "The time of death is sometimes extremely important. It is a question almost invariably asked by police officers, sometimes with a touching faith in the accuracy of the estimate. Determining the time of death is extremely difficult, and accuracy is impossible". (Ref. 8 at p. 115.) "No problem in forensic medicine has been investigated as thoroughly as that of determining the time of death on the basis of post mortem findings. Apart from its obvious legal importance, its solution has been so elusive as to provide a constant intellectual challenge to workers in many sciences. In spite of the great effort and ingenuity expended, the results have been meagre". (Ref. 15 at p. 33.) "Repeated experience teaches the investigator to be wary of relying on any single observation for estimating the time of death (or "duration of the post mortem interval"), and he wisely avoids making dogmatic statements based on an isolated observation". (Ref. 12 at p. 151.) "Considering the variables which influence the rate of body heat loss, the best one can say about the reliability of algor mortis as a post mortem clock is that it permits a rough approximation of the time of death. Errors in over-estimating and under-estimating the post mortem interval based on body cooling are common, even in the face of considerable experience by those making the estimate. Body temperature as an indicator of the post mortem interval should be correlated with all other phenomenon and observations utilised in establishing the time of death". (Ref. 12 at p. 164.) "Formerly, it was a hallowed "rule of thumb" that the rectal temperature dropped at an average of 11/2oF per hour, rather faster during the first few hours. This method was a guarantee of inaccuracy, but little has been found to replace it. In previous editions of this book a simple calculation based on the drop in centrigrade from 37o related to a factor for environmental temperature was advocated, but further experience has shown serious errors in the method, and it is now no longer recommended". (Ref. 8 at p. 119-120.) "Some difference of opinion exists over the use of a thermometer at the scene of a suspicious death. Considerable caution must be employed when considering the taking of a rectal temperature with the body in situ. If there is any possibility at all of some sexual interference, whether homosexual or heterosexual, no intereference with the clothing or perineum must be made until all forensic examinations have been completed. Certainly, no instrument should be
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inserted into the rectum before trace evidence has been sought". (Ref. 10 at p. 9-10.) "Whatever method is used to calculate the estimated time since death from body temperature, all
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timedeath - Department of Forensic Medicine University of...

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