Dissolution

Certain organs and tissues (e.g., pancreas) decompose quickly, and others (e.g., bone, uterus, prostate) are slower to decay. Progressive decomposition leads to disappearance of

Fig. 27. Decomposition. Skin slippage.
Fig. 28. Blisters from decomposition.
Fig. 30. Decomposition. Degloving of skin of feet. (Courtesy of the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, Chapel Hill, NC.)

Fig. 31. Homicide. Autopsy not done during initial investigation because of severe decomposition. (A) Shotgun wound of right cheek. Wound was obscured by maggot infestation. Death was originally attributed to natural causes.(B) Radiograph of skull showing shotgun pellets. (Courtesy of the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, Chapel Hill, NC.)

Fig. 31. Homicide. Autopsy not done during initial investigation because of severe decomposition. (A) Shotgun wound of right cheek. Wound was obscured by maggot infestation. Death was originally attributed to natural causes.(B) Radiograph of skull showing shotgun pellets. (Courtesy of the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, Chapel Hill, NC.)

tissues and organs and eventual skeletonization (2 to 4 wk in warm to hot weather) (47). Disarticulation of skeletal remains eventually occurs (60). Issues may arise as to whether the recovered remains are human (61).

5.2.5. "Unfit for Examination"

Discoloration, distension, degradation, and dissolution, as components of decomposition, can disorient a pathologist already reeling from malodorous gases eminating from a body seething with maggots. Failure to approach these cases systematically with a complete autopsy can result in a traumatic cause of death being missed (Fig. 31 ; ref. 62). The more advanced the decomposition, the greater the likelihood of not finding a cause of death ("no anatomic cause of death," "undetermined"; see also ref. 62).

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