An 1894 Post-Mortem

Independence Daily Reporter, 08 Dec 1894


How a Post-Mortem is Made


Few persons upon reading an account of a post-mortem examination stop to consider the importance of the matter or the time taken up to do the work of an autopsy, says The Baltimore Sun.

The post-mortem surgeons are important officers, who make all the medico-legal examinations for the city, and are the medical witnesses for the state in cases where post-mortem examinations are required.

There are two post-mortem physicians in Baltimore, Dr S W Hoopman, for the ten lower wards, and Dr L W Councilman, for the ten upper wards.

A reporter, wishing to witness the post-mortem work, called on Dr Hoopman a short time ago just as he was starting to perform such a duty.

The case was a very important one, being one of the late murders committed in the eastern section of the city.

Arriving at the house, about 20 medical students were found who accompanied Dr Hope men to the room where the dead body lay. A table was prepared by covering it with an oil cloth. The clothing was removed from the body and it was placed on the table. The doctor carefully inspected the corpse and noted all wounds, which in this case weer found to be three. Two bullet wounds and one knife gash.

The head was first examined. An incision was made from ear to ear over the top of the head, followed by a gush of blood, which made some of the spectators remember that they were needed outside for a moment.

They scalp was deflected backward and forward and the skull exposed. The skull was then sawed around on a line with the eyebrow. When the top of the skull was removed the doctor too out the brain. That beautiful organ, with its fissures and convolutions, was a mass of blood, the fatal bullet its way diagonally through it. An inspection of the neck showed that another bullet had entered at the back, severing the carotid artery and the jugular vein. The next move was to make a long incision from the chin down to the navel. The breast bone was dissected and the heart, the doctor remarked that the “columnae earnae, chordae tendineae, and ariculo-ventricular and semi-lunar valves are all healthy.” The lungs were found healthy. A piece thrown in water would not sink, which the doctor said was a test for healthy lungs.

The stomach, liver, spleen, pancreas and intestines were all in turn carefully removed and inspected. All this completed, the organs were replaced and the incisions carefully sewed up. So completely is this done that when the body is dressed the fat of a post-mortem examination having been made is not apparent.

“How many post-mortems have you made during the year?” asked the reporter.

“About forty, and about one hundred since I have been making post-mortems.”

Glancing at  the watch it was found that four hours had been occupied in performing the interesting examination. Post-mortem physicians are appointed yearly, their selection being made by the mayor. In each case they file a report of the autopsy at the health department.

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