Thursday, April 21, 2011

How could they be in any doubt???

I'm a bit mind-boggled by the actions of police in Wimbledon, England.

When police pulled a headless body from a river, you would not have thought it needed a doctor to confirm the person was dead.

But there are rules and procedures to follow. And a medic was duly called in to declare that the man in question was actually ‘life extinct’.

Yesterday a coroner expressed surprise at why a doctor was summoned.

‘Even though there was no head, and the maggots, you had to call him in?’ Dr Shirley Radcliffe asked Det Insp Chuk Gwams.

The officer replied: ‘Yes Ma’am. They are the experts, we are not.’

There's more at the link.

Y'know . . . if I found a body without a head, I don't think I'd need a doctor to know that the victim was dead! Isn't this taking specialization a wee bit too far?

It reminds me of the famous (alleged) exchange between a cross-examining lawyer and a pathologist.

Lawyer: Do you recall the time that you examined the body?
Pathologist: The autopsy started around 8:30 p.m.
Lawyer: And Mr. Johnson was dead at the time?
Pathologist: (Sighing heavily) No, he was sitting on the table wondering why I was conducting an autopsy on him.

The next day the testimony of the doctor continued (same lawyer).

Lawyer: Doctor, before you performed the autopsy, did you check for a pulse?
Pathologist: No.
Lawyer: Did you check for blood pressure?
Pathologist: No.
Lawyer: Did you check for breathing?
Pathologist: No.
Lawyer: So, then it is possible that the patient was alive when you began the autopsy?
Pathologist: No.
Lawyer: How can you be so sure, Doctor?
Pathologist: Because his brain was sitting on my desk in a jar.
Lawyer: But could the patient have still been alive nevertheless?
Pathologist: (Sighing heavily) I suppose it's possible that he could have been alive and practicing law somewhere . . .



Anonymous said...

Lets vote that lawyer into the oral office in wash dc for 2012. Couldn't do much worse then the one we already have vacationing some where else.

Anonymous said...


Death is a medical diagnosis. A person is not dead unless a qualified medical person says they are dead. In some jurisdictions, the statute will allow non-MDs to make that diagnosis when there is decomposition or fragmentation of the body. Otherwise, the person isn't dead until they are pronounced dead.

This isn't as silly as it sounds, there are reported cases of drug overdose or hypothermia where "dead" people have woken up. Ti's common enough that it's enshrined in law.

In Victorian times, people were buried alive because of this problem (and techniques weren't so good) and there were various patent methods of sounding the alarm if one woke up underground and needed to be retrieved. Embalming was invented not only to preserve the body, but to make sure the body was, in point of fact, actually dead.

Anonymous said...

TINS - back in the day, one of my mentors was flying a very, very sick medical patient from Small Town down to Huge City Hospital. The passenger shuffled off the mortal coil in flight and the nurse so informed the pilot. My mentor asked if she was an MD or Sheriff. "No, but he's dead." The reply? "No, he's not. He'll die on final approach." Because otherwise the pilot would have had to land at an airport within the county where the individual became deceased, or face a mountain of paperwork.

Then there was the EMS supervisor two states north of here who insisted that the paramedics try and revive an individual found in a ditch who was very obviously NOT just "pining for the fjords" . . .

Firehand said...

I remember when I was a kid, Dad told me that they'd been ordered(Highway Patrol) not to say on the air that someone was dead. I believe the wording was something like "I don't care if his body's in the car and his head's in the ditch, you're not a doctor so you can't say he's dead!"

Firehand said...

Didn't the Romans have a law that a body had to lay until it actually started visibly decaying before it could be buried?