Life and Death > Medical Moments

Turning a body?


I have a short scene in my novel where the medical examiner shows the police officer bruising and scratches on the front of the victim's body, then a bullet wound in the victim's back. How would the body be turned over? What personnel would be required? Is this even a reasonable thing for an M.E. to do—is there another way the M.E. would show the officer all the wounds?

Old Bill:
From my experiences at autopsies (many eons ago), usually the ME and his assistants have already examined and x-ray'd the body prior to the actual cutting. Photographs are taken of significant injuries and trauma before, during and after the post. If a police investigator is present (not always), the ME would point out such things pertinent to the case or cause of death. Handling and turning the body is usually done by the assistants if required. As I recall, it is not a murder until the ME declares it so. Any death scene belongs to the ME (at least in NY) but the actual investigation is deferred to the appropriate LE agency. (Just a side note: In one fire scene I had with multiple deaths, the ME did not feel comfortable with the local police department (so he said) and called upon our Sheriff's Dept. to take over the investigation. It was probably more political than a lack of confidence, but that is the way of the world sometimes.)

Hope this helps a little. I wonder just how much the turning of the body is important in the scene.

Good luck,

Old Bill

Something I always suggest to writers is "get it from the horse's mouth". Take a trip to a Medical Examiners office or police dept. and explain that you are/trying to be a writer and ask questions. Be professional in your demeanor and appearance. You'd be surprised how cooperative they can be. Doesn't hurt to develop lines of communication with personnel there for when you need future advice. Always offer to give credits in your book for the dept and individuals.


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