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Insect activity Scene markers The most important and most commonly used of these are body temperature, rigor mortis, and lividity. Alexandre Lacassagne —director of Legal Medicine in Lyon, France, wrote extensively on algor mortis the temperature of deathrigor mortis the stiffness of deathand livor mortis the color of death.
Body Temperature Normal body temperature is After death, the body loses or gains heat progressively until it equilibrates with that of the surrounding medium. Since corpse temperature can be easily and quickly obtained see page XXthe search for a formula that uses this parameter to define the time of death has been sought for years.
As early asEnglish physician John Davey undertook the study of corpse heat loss in London, and as late asT. Hoare attempted to standardize this analysis when they established a computerized mathematical formula known as the Standard Cooling Curve.
In the intervening years, and even since Marshall and Hoare, many others have attempted to devise similar schemes. Unfortunately, none of these have proven to be any more accurate than the current formula for heat loss of 1. That sounds simple enough. For example, a body in a temperate room will lose heat much more slowly than will one in an icy, flowing stream.
And a body in a hot environment, such as an enclosed garage in Phoenix, Arizona, in August, where the ambient temperature could be degrees Fahrenheit or more, will gain heat. The key is that the corpse will lose or gain heat until it reaches equilibrium with its environment.
Ideally, the body temperature is taken either rectally or by measuring the liver temperature, which may be a more accurate reflection of the true core body temperature. This requires making a small incision in the upper right abdomen and passing the thermometer into the tissue of the liver.
This should only be done by a trained individual and under the direction of the medical examiner. Care should be taken not to alter or destroy any existing wounds on the body.
Some people have suggested measuring the core temperature by inserting the thermometer into a knife wound or gunshot injury to negate the need to make a new incision. This should never be done because the introduction of any foreign object may contaminate or alter the wound, which can be key evidence in the case.
For practical reasons, the rectal temperature is usually taken. The sooner after death the body is found, the more accurately time of death can be assessed by this method. Once the body reaches ambient temperature, all bets are off.
But even if done correctly and soon after death, body temperature determination is subject to several sources of inaccuracy. One assumption made in the calculations is the initial body temperature. Some people have higher normal temperatures than others.
Women tend to run higher temperatures than do men. Illnesses associated with fevers can markedly elevate the temperature of the person at the time of death, while chronic illness, dehydration, or the presence of prolonged shock may lower initial body temperature.
There is also some diurnal basically morning versus evening variation in body temperature in most people. All this means that the calculation begins with some degree of error. A dead body looses heat passively by three distinct mechanisms: The state of the corpse and the environmental conditions greatly affect the rate of heat loss.
Obesity, heavy clothing, warm still air, exposure to direct sunlight, and an enclosed environment slow heat loss. Fat and clothing make good insulators, so an obese person in a sweater will lose heat much more slowly than would a thin, unclothed corpse exposed to cold or moving air, water, or shade.
Children and the elderly tend to lose heat faster, as do those who are chronically ill or emaciated. If the body is in contact with cold surfaces such as marble or cool concrete, heat loss will be greater.
Several days after death, as fly maggots begin to feed on the corpse, their activity and internal metabolic processes can at times raise the temperature of the corpse.
This should not be a problem for the forensic investigator, though, because once this insect activity is that far advanced body temperature is no longer of use.
As you can see, heat loss is fraught with inaccuracies. Still, with early and careful measurement of the core body temperature and consideration for the conditions surrounding the corpse, a reasonably accurate estimate can often be made.
The bodies are discovered four hours after death. One body is left in the garage where the ambient temperature is degrees Fahrenheit, while the other is in the living room where air conditioning holds the temperature at The corpse inside would lose heat at about 1.
But what if the victim were very old or young, thin, unclothed, or lying on a cold tile floor near an air conditioning vent? Under these circumstances, the heat loss would be more rapid.Montana Canadian Trade Mission Successful.
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