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Autopsy as a form of evisceration: Implications for decomposition rate, pattern, and estimation of postmortem interval

Christiane Baigent, Cortnee Agan, Melissa Connor, Eriek S Hansen
Forensic Science International 2019 November 19, 306: 110068
Evisceration following penetrating trauma or animal scavenging has the potential to affect the probative value of biological evidence and postmortem interval estimation. Autopsy presents an opportunity for controlled assessment of the rate of decomposition following evisceration. A balanced sample of twenty-six human cadavers was used to assess intergroup rate and trajectory of decomposition at the Forensic Investigation Research Station in Whitewater, Colorado. A linear mixed model using maximum likelihood estimates showed that the decomposition rate did not differ between autopsied and non-autopsied donors based on a comparison of slopes χ2 (1) =0.223, p=0.637. The results demonstrate that penetrating trauma and the loss of systemic continuity following evisceration affect the pattern of decomposition, but not the rate. This suggests that the bloat phase may not be a major catalyst of decomposition, and that evisceration may not preclude the use of scopic methods for estimating postmortem interval, when sufficient peripheral tissue is retained.

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