Discovery Fit & Health
Thanks to the endless supply of police procedurals on television these days, we've grown accustomed, maybe even inured, to the sight of a body covered by a sheet or being carted off in a bag. But how do they make their somber journey to the morgue or hospital for further examination?
Dead bodies are collected by authorized personnel and transported using a body bag or covered by a sterile evidence sheet -- staffers always use new bags or sheets for each corpse. The body bag must be fully sealed, because it contains and protects evidence during transport that may be critical in a forensic investigation. Bodies are transported in specially fitted, unmarked vans to the site where the autopsy will take place -- typically a hospital or morgue. Once it arrives, the body (still in the bag or sheet) is moved by a diener, or morgue attendant, to the examination room. The diener may sometimes use special equipment designed to transport the body. If the autopsy is not scheduled to be performed immediately, the corpse is stored in a refrigerated area until the examination takes place.
Once medical examiners do perform the autopsies, among the key things they'll look to establish is time of death. They will note certain physical changes in the deceased's body that occur at well known times, which can help them determine the time of death. For example, gravity causes the blood to settle in the body, and lividity, a purple discoloration, imbues the person's skin. The body also becomes rigid -- a condition known as rigor mortis. Following death, the fluid in the eyes causes the corneas to become cloudy -- another clue to the time of death. Medical examiners can also narrow down the time of death based on contents of the deceased's stomach and intestines and whether or not the person has a full bladder.
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