Judge not according to the appearance.
Toward the end of the morning surgery, I was asked by the police to inspect and advise on a body ‘found in suspicious circumstances’. In due course, I was conveyed in a police car to where the television cameras and the police were waiting.
The background story was that a man had been arrested the day before for driving under the influence of alcohol and while disqualified. He had been released from the watchhouse at 8.30 pm the previous evening to appear at court at 10.00 am. His parting remark had been, ‘I will not be appearing in court’. He did not appear, and on going to the house where he lived alone, the police had found him lying still. When I looked I saw him lying prone in a room at the top of the back stairs—four in number—with a pool of blood spreading from under the head. The light was still on from the night before.
After ascertaining that photography was finished and it was clear for me to proceed to examine the body, I proceeded to turn him over to determine the source of bleeding. I did not usually wear gloves to handle bodies, for as I have remarked to various onlookers, ‘The incubation period for HIV is such that I didn’t have to worry about it’. Next time I wore gloves.
He was a heavy man and a tentative pull at his clothes had little effect. A hand under the shoulder brought some movement and as he rolled over I felt a ‘kick’ and there were cracks and sparks, something like a Chinese New Year celebration. After the power was turned off at the meter box, I had a closer look. An electric power cord had been partly unravelled and the electric wires connected to each index finger. The cord had been unnoticed where it passed out from under the body—through a door to a high-power point in the next room. The blood came from where he had fallen on his nose.
DISCUSSION AND LESSONS LEARNED
Be suspicious of the suspicious.
Always consider safety first in cases of apparent accidental death, suicide, homicide and motor vehicle accidents.
Secure safety at the site.
One very cold wintry Sunday we experienced one of those dreaded emergencies when a busload of tourists returning from a trip to the Mt Baw Baw snow resort plunged off the mountain road. Forty-two people from Italy and expatriates were affected and they were transported to our small bush nursing hospital to be managed by two doctors and two nurses. The scene was somewhat chaotic, especially as many could not communicate in English. Most of the patients had relatively minor injuries but some stressed victims who claimed to ...