Monday, January 5, 2015

Come Dissect with Us at City Liquidators (But Please Don't Dissect Us!)

In the land of the weird and wonderful (aka Portland), there exists a happy little (or big, REALLY big) haven that is City Liquidators. This magical place won a prestigious award in the long ago time of 2002 for "The Best Place to Indulge Your Medical Fetish" and has had quite a few enchanting and desired treasures hidden away that need new homes.

One of these enigmatic items is a vintage used and possibly haunted autopsy table for sale at the otherworldly price of $599.90 hailing from the distant kingdom of the Oregon Health and Science University.
Whether or not you are interested in this venerated piece of equipment, we have a special surprise for you. We have directions on how to do your very own autopsy (or just on how autopsies work, etc.).

*Disclaimer: Don't ACTUALLY try this, especially at home, and especially with real living or previously living or otherwise creatures and/or humans. If you do choose to try this, do it on a doll or unsuspecting stuffed animal. 

To make sure you're clear:
Safe (aka toy and not real-life autopsy)

(aka too close to the murder of dead people for comfort, unless you're in a class, in which case, follow your professor's directions and not ours)

City Liquidators is in no way responsible for the stupidity and/or morbid explorations of crazy people, so please don't sue us. We should also add that this info is from medical references and we are in no way, shape, or form medical professionals. Thanks! Happy reading!*

But first, before we start anything, let's go over some general facts about autopsy.

The General Facts

an examination of a body after death to determine the cause of death or the character and extent of changes produced by disease..." (Kotch).

 According to a powerpoint from Vanderbilt University Medical Center, an autopsy is also known as a necropsy, postmortem, or postmortem examination. Not only that, but autopsy means "to see for oneself" and has been used in professional practice since the 17th century, and in general much longer. The ancient Egyptians were actually the ones to start the nearest act to autopsy as they were among the first to "practice the removal and examination of the internal organs of humans in the religious practice of mummification" (Vanderbilt University Medical Center).

There are two types of autopsy out there; medical and forensic. "Medical autopsies are typically carried out by doctors while forensic autopsies are performed by pathologists/medical examiners" (Kotch). If you're wondering which of the two is usually the one that's in tv and movies, it's the latter, the kind usually used for police reports. This same source, having read a report by the American Society for Clinical Pathology, elaborates and discerns that the reason that autopsies are carried out is "to determine:
  • Quality assurance of medical diagnostics and service.
  • Public education.
  • The development of accurate mortality statistics.
  • The early identification of environmental, infectious, and occupational hazards to health.
  • Information documentation for future legal, financial, and medical evaluation.
  • Evaluation of new forms of therapy and new diagnostic modalities.
  • Continuing education of physicians" (Kotch).
Robert Valdes of elaborates on forensic autopsies by specifying who works on criminal death investigations, who are usually pathologists and forensic pathologists. According to him, a "pathologist studies the effects of diseases, medical treatments and injury on the human body..." while a "...forensic pathologist specializes in using these studies to establish a legal admissible manner of death in a court of law," (Valdes). Now as far as deaths go, he names the following:
  • Natural: if the autopsy shows the death was a result of a natural disease process (ie: leukemia, cancer, heart attack, blood clot, etc.).
  • Accident: when the answers to the reason for death aren't clear, but the evidence points to it happening accidentally (ie: falling, fire, car wreck, extreme heat or cold, etc.).
  • Homicide: murder.
  • Suicide: when the death is self-inflicted and intentional.
  • Undetermined: when the cause of death is a mystery. 
Now that we have the basic information, we can continue onto more of the particulars.

Medical Examiners and Coroners... What's the Difference?

  • Medical Examiner
    • Origin: France and Scotland; brought to the U.S. in the late 1800s.
    • Appointed local or state official; expected to be objective.
    • Term of office: serves continuously and is only removed with just cause.
    • Qualifications: Medical degree, complete with training and a certificate in forensic pathology.
    • Duties are to investigate the death of a person who died:
      • as a result of criminal violence, suicide, poisoning, accident, negligence, or disease constituting a public health threat.
      • unexpectedly, due to suspicious circumstances.
      • while they were in government custody, undergoing a medical procedure, or was unattended by a physician.
      • and is going to be cremated, dissected, or buried at sea.
  • Coroner
    • Origin: England, 12th Century; brought to North America in the 1600s.
    • In Britain, is either elected or appointed by the Crown, until 1888, when it was made appointive by the local council. In the U.S., is an elected local official; runs for office, often as a member of a political party.
    • Term of Office (in the U.S.): two to four years.
    • Qualifications: Citizenship, residence; no medical training required.
    • Duties are to convene an inquest or inquisition with a jury, to investigate the death of a person who died:
      • as a result of criminal violence, suicide, poisoning, accident, negligence, or disease constituting a public health threat.
      • unexpectedly, due to suspicious circumstances.
      • while they were in government custody, undergoing a medical procedure, or was unattended by a physician.
      • and is going to be cremated, dissected, or buried at sea.
(Information in this section referenced from Cases)

Still confused?

Well the difference is slight, but it's there. Dr. Kiesel, the Deputy Chief Medical Examiner of Fulton county explains it as follows;

"A medical examiner by definition is a physician... In most cases, they are trained to be forensic pathologists... and are appointed to their positions. To be a coroner, you just have to be able to be elected to the job. You've got places where the local feed store operator is a coroner. I've got a friend out in Washington State who's a farmer, who's the coroner of his county" (Valdes).

The reason for the coroner not needing many qualifications is due to resources in rural areas and the fact that all the coroner legally has to do is this:
  • Say if the person is dead or not.
  • Identify the body.
  • Notify the next of kin.
  • Collect and return any personal belongings on the body to the family of the deceased.
  • Sign the death certificate.
Got it? Ok. Let's continue.

Starting the Process

The body is taken to the morgue and is stored until examination time, which will be within 24 hours of death so the organs are still in one piece and embalming hasn't started yet. The body is stored in one of two cold chambers, according to the Vanderbilt University Medical Center:
  • Morgue + -> Positive Temperature (35.6/39.2°F)-> most usual for keeping bodies for a few days or weeks.
  • Morgue- -> Negative Temperature (5/-13°F)-> used for keeping bodies not identified yet. The body is completely frozen.
Information is then gathered about the deceased, including, but not limited to:
  • Medical records.
  • Doctor consultations.
  • Family member interviews.
  • Investigations of the area where the person died.
  • Studies on the circumstances surrounding the death.
  • Police consultations.
Then the following things occur:
  • Body is weighed, measured, and x-rayed.
  • Photos are taken of the body (front, back, and nude).
  • Fingerprints are taken (missing parts are noted, if any).
  • Area under the nails is scraped for evidence.
  • Clothes are examined.
  • Age, sex, and race are noted.
  • Eye color, scars, moles, tattoos, etc. are noted.
  • Eyes are examined (blood spots, etc.).
  • Body secretions and gun powder residue/bullet holes are noted.
  • Body fluids are drawn from the body for testing (blood, urine, spinal fluid, vitreous humour from the eye (eye goo), etc.).
  • Body is cleaned and prepared for the table.

(The above section's info is referenced from the Vanderbilt University Medical Center's site).

The Tools
  • Autopsy Wear:
    • Scrub Suits.
    • Gowns.
    • Gloves (two pair).
    • Shoe Covers.
    • Clear Plastic Face Shield.
  • Cadaver/Autopsy Table: is plumbed for running water and has several faucets for washing away blood from the procedure. The raised edges keep bodily fluids from running to the floor, and the table is about waist high.
  • Body Block: is a rubber or plastic "brick" that is placed under the back of the body, causing the arms and neck to fall back while pushing the chest upward to make it easier to slice open.
  • Bone Saw: used to cut through bone or skull.
  • Bread Knife: used to shave slices off of organs for examination.
  • Electric Saw: cuts the skull to expose the brain.
  • Enterotome: special scissors used to open the intestines.
  • Hagedorn Needle: a heavy needle used to sew up the body after examination.

  • Hammer with Hook: used to pull the skull cap off of the skull.
  • Handheld Voice Recorder: to take verbal notes before, throughout, and after the procedure. 
  • Rib Cutter: special sheers used to cut through the ribs.
  • Scalpel: like a surgeon's scalpel, but with a much larger blade (the largest possible) for making long deep cuts or scraping away tissue.
  • Scissors: used for opening hollow organs and cutting vessels.
  • Skull Chisel: used for carefully prying the skull cap off.
  • Stryker Saw: the electric saw used to cut through the skull to remove the brain. 
  • Toothed Forceps: used to pick up heavy organs.
(Info courtesy of Valdes).

The Process

Once the body is externally examined and dressed down, the internal autopsy process starts. The whole process is pretty gruesome, so here are the paraphrased facts. If you want to read more in-detail, click here.
  • A Y-incision is made on the torso, which goes from from shoulder to shoulder and meets at the breast bone (but curves with a woman below the breasts) before descending in a line down to the pubic bone.
  • Skin, muscle, and soft tissue are peeled back. The skull is opened and the brain is looked at. Organs are removed, dissected, and looked at, as well as various blood vessels and bones. More cuts are made. The whole body is essentially pulled apart, while the person(s) conducting the investigation look(s) for:
    • organ weight.
    • tissue samples to take.
    • evidence of trauma or other indications of the cause of death.
(Info courtesy of Valdes).

Preparing the Body for the Funeral Home

To give you an idea of just how gruesome this whole process is, by the end of it, "the body has an open and empty chest cavity with butterflied chest flaps, the top of the skull is missing, and the skull flaps are pulled over the face and neck" (Valdes). This is the reason we decided to skip the gory details. Now from here, the examiner has to prepare the body for the funeral home. In order to do so, they: 

  • either put the organs back in the body or have them incinerated.
  • close the chest flaps and sew them together.
  • put the skull cap back into place and sew it down.
They then contact the funeral home to pick up the body.
(Info courtesy of Valdes).

The Autopsy Table

Enjoy this blog post? Want to include something magnificently creepy and/or eclectic in your home? Well come on by City Liquidators and pick up your very own autopsy table (a picture of ours is below) for only $599!

Have a great day!


1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing such a nice information with readers about Autopsy Tables