Examination of the Body

A systematic and thorough inspection of the decedent should be performed by an investigator. A routine pattern of evaluation should be performed in each assessment. If an investigator always begins at the top of the subject's body and moves toward the feet, the possibility of missing important injuries or evidence is lessened. The following should be described:

1. Any obvious injuries or abnormalities.

2. Rigor and livor mortis.

3. Body and environmental temperatures.

4. Environmental conditions such as moisture and wind.

5. Appropriateness of the clothing for type, size, and cleanliness.

6. Does it appear that the person has been redressed with buttons buttoned and zippers zipped.

7. Note all jewelry. Are any items missing?

8. Money and credit cards should be documented and returned to the legal next-of- kin.

No analyses, such as gunshot residue or fingerprinting, should be performed on the decedent's body at the scene without the expressed consent of the forensic pathologist responsible for the postmortem examination. Clothing should not be removed. The body should not be cleansed. No liquids or powders should be placed on the deceased as these might interfere with radiographs or chemical testing. If more than one hour has elapsed since the initial body assessment has been made, and the decedent is still at the scene, a second assessment (to include body temperature, rigor and livor mortis) should be recorded. A thorough body visualization at the scene gives an investigator the capability to differentiate injuries noted at the scene from any body injuries sustained during conveyance to the morgue.

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