Friday, February 18, 2011

Forensic Pathology

I spent yesterday trying to pin down a few details and plot points for my manuscript involving Human Remains Detection dogs, a mountain meadow that's a dump site for bodies, and a megalomaniac intent on meeting his own needs.

Today's quandary revolved around autopsies and toxicology tests and well . . . stuff I don't know very much about.

(OT: This is kind of funny. I was talking to a woman awhile ago about my completed manuscript about black market body parts with a tagline of "Money may not be able to buy love, but enough can buy a new heart", and my current manuscript with a tagline of "Sometimes the dead shouldn't stay buried." She asked me if I had to do a lot of research. After the silent "Duh!" in my head, I told her I relied on personal experience. Was that mean?)

Last September, I had the wonderful opportunity to attend Writers' Police Academy. If you're a crime writer who is interested in the detail, the feel, the smell, the attitude, then you can't not go to this conference. Put it on your "A" list.

One of the presenters was Dr. Jonathan Hayes, the Senior Medical Examiner for New York City. Late this afternoon I had an 'aha' moment, and dug out my notes from his all-too-short presentation. Here are some tidbits just for you. Hopefully, you'll be able to tell what I've added from my own brain cells:

Television, and many novels, play into what Dr. Hayes calls "the distraction of the dramatic." Kind of like the old axiom, "If it bleeds, it leads", I think.

Pathologists perform:
-Autopsies - sudden death issues
-Evaluations of injuries
-Occasional live patient evaluations

Be careful not to confuse a coroner with a medical examiner.

-In the UK, a coroner must hold both MD and JD qualifications.

-In the US, a coroner is simply an elected official.

-In rural areas of the US, a coroner may have minimal training. He/she may be the person who has a truck and can transport bodies.

-Medical examiners are MDs who are pathologists with forensic training. This, thankfully, is the trend.

A good ME's office wants to keep a low profile. Jonathan's boss, the Chief Medical Examiner is especially proud that his (her?) name is not widely known.

More women than men are MEs. "Gore Hounds" is a common term. I'm thinking "Gore Whores."

CR: Crashed by Timothy Hallinan.

It's all better with friends.

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