Postmortem Interval

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Questions: 1.Can you Identify a flaw in the Presentation of this answer? Explain your answer. 2.Knowledge of what factors might lead the Forensic Pathologist to modify her stated postmortem Interval and in what way (i.e. increase or decrease) would the stated postmortem interval be modified?   Answers: Introduction One of the most vital pieces of evidence in a case that involves a deceased body identification is to answer what seems to be a direct question – “when did the deceased die?” A detective, more beloved by the “romantic crime” genre is probably to look at the wristwatch of the deceased and declare the time of death to that shown on now fractured and distorted face. The most credible, reliable and valid response to this seemed straight-forward question is probably to be obtained from impartial or unbiased eyewitness to the event. 1.A Flaw In The Presentation In identifying the flaw, the main focus is to identify how long the deceased has been lying since death. The pathologist was wrong by giving accurate time (twelve hours-twenty minutes) than the recommended practice of providing a range of times within which the death is likely to have taken place. In this case, the pathologist errored by specifically stating that the body had been dead for twelve hours and twenty minutes. The longer the post-mortem interval, the broader the range will be. Such an accurate estimate, unfortunately, is only allowed to come from the least experienced medical witness who tends to offer the most exact estimate.  Indeed, another flaw in the presentation is that the pathologist gave a fraction of an hour (1hr, 20 minutes) rather than the recommended practice of giving a whole hour. Thus such a presentation attracts a considerable skepticism from the word go.   2.Factors Leading To Forensic Pathologist Modifying PMI Algor Mortis is the second phase of decomposition which translates to ‘coldness” (algor) “of death” (mortis). It is sometimes dubbed “death chill” and marked by a stable drop in temperature of the body. It continues till the corpse hits “ambient temperature,” matches the surroundings’ temperature. It usually ensues in 1 hour following death. Many factors have substantial influence on this stage of decomposition. Correct time of death determination via body temperature can be challenging because of fluctuation or stability of ambient temperature, thermal conductivity of surface the corpse is place and temperature plateau-a highly variable time period whereby the body doesn’t cool. The cooling rate could surged where the deceased is malnourished or thin or if the body is exposed to low temperatures and or windy environment. Conversely, where the deceased was running a fever (febrile), under the influence, obese, or left in a warm environment, cooling rate shall decrease. Clothing also play a key role in escalating or slowing down Algor Mortis. The deceased shall cool faster if huge amounts of skin are exposed or if wearing wet clothing. Dry, layered, and heavy clothing keeps the deceased body warm for an extended period of time following death. After the body has begun true decomposition, the temperature shall increase again thereby making Algor Mortis increasingly helpful in the determination of correct time pf death within the initial twenty-four hours. Temperature readings are obtainable from deceased’s rectum or via the insertion of a meat thermometer under deceased’s ribcage on right side and into liver. Glaister Equation (GE) is used by investigators in estimating time of death. Whereas temperature fluctuation can vary anywhere between 1.0 degrees Fahrenheit (F) decline in  temperature an hour to a 12.0 degrees F decline an hour, the average remains 1.50 degrees F plunge  an hour, every hour following death. The GE uses 98.40 degrees F (av. body temperature) less rectal (or internal) temperature in degrees F, divided by 1.50 degrees F, to equate death time.   References Adair, T. (2012). Aspects Influencing the Entomological Postmortem Interval in Crime Scene Reconstruction. J Assoc Crime Scene Reconstr, 18(3). Al-Alousi, L. M., Anderson, R. A., Worster, D. M., & Land, D. V. (2002). Factors influencing the precision of estimating the postmortem interval using the triple-exponential formulae (tef): Part ii. a study of the effect of body temperature at the moment of death on the postmortem brain, liver and rectal cooling in 117 forensic cases. Forensic science international, 125(2), 231-236. Ito, T., Tamiya, N., Takahashi, H., Yamazaki, K., Yamamoto, H., Sakano, S. … & Miyaishi, S. (2012). Factors that prolong the ‘postmortem interval until finding’ (PMI-f) among community-dwelling elderly individuals in Japan: analysis of registration data. BMJ open, 2(5), e001280.

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