Stories tagged autopsy

Jul
17
2009

Air France Airbus A330-200 aircraft, similar to the one used for Flight 447
Air France Airbus A330-200 aircraft, similar to the one used for Flight 447Courtesy Christopher Weyer
It's grim news, but the autopsies of the 51 bodies recovered from the June 1 Air France Flight 447 crash in the Atlantic Ocean reveal that the crash victims did not drown. Why is this important? It is looking more and more unlikely that the black boxes from the crash will be recovered (though submarine searches for them will resume next week). So, investigators have to turn to all the other bits of evidence they have to determine the cause of the crash, including clues that can be found in the condition of the recovered bodies.

You can learn a lot from a cadaver recovered from a plane crash. Bits of debris impeded inside bodies can indicate an explosion. The type and location of injury (on the right side or left side of the body) used in conjunction with a seating chart can help pinpoint where an explosion or event might have originated on the plane. Are the bodies burned on the front (indicating a fire in the cabin while the passenger would still be seated with the back protected by their seat) or on their backs (perhaps indicating that they were burned by fire on the ground or floating out of their seats). Are they clothed? Studies have shown that a fully clothed person will have their clothes “blasted off” when they hit the water, which would indicate that the bodies had been ejected from the plane while in the air. And lack of drowning likely indicates that the passengers were dead before, or were killed as a result of, a water impact.

If you are interested in learning more about cadavers and what you can learn with and from them, check out the book Stiff by Mary Roach, it’s an interesting read.

The bodies that are being recovered show no signs of being in an explosion, so that is being ruled out as the cause of the crash at this point. Authorities now believe that the plane was intact when it hit the water, but the cause of the crash is still not known.

Nov
27
2007

Would have cancer killed Lincoln?: An author/physician theorizes that Abraham Lincoln would have soon died from a rare form of cancer if he had not been assassinated at Ford's Theater in 1865.
Would have cancer killed Lincoln?: An author/physician theorizes that Abraham Lincoln would have soon died from a rare form of cancer if he had not been assassinated at Ford's Theater in 1865.Courtesy Civics Online
I just finished reading an incredible book about Abraham Lincoln – Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln -- by Doris Kearns Godwin. Of course, it ends with his assassination at Ford’s Theater right after the end of the Civil War.

Much to my surprise today, I come across a headline that at the time of his death, Lincoln may have only had about six months to live due to the effects of a rare type of cancer. Doctor/author John G. Sotos makes the case for Lincoln’s cancer diagnosis in an upcoming book.

One thing that struck me in Team of Rivals, which is written based on thousands of letters and diaries written by Lincoln’s associates during the time he was alive, was that most were first impressed and/or put off by his unusual appearance. Sotos theorizes that those appearances were related to Lincoln’s cancer.

Sotos thinks Lincoln suffered from MEN 2B, a genetic form of cancer that can account for unusual height along with unusual facial features – lumps of nervous tissue on the eyelids, tongue and lips. Sotos also thinks one of Lincoln’s sons died from the same type of cancer

And CSI-type techniques may come into play to see if Sotos is right. A small sampling of DNA is all that ‘s needed to check the condition of chromosome 10 of Lincoln’s genetic code to see if it shows signs of MEN 2B. Samples of his DNA can be collected from any of the many blood-stained fabrics that have been preserved from Lincoln’s death, or from the eight skull fragments that were preserved from the president’s autopsy.

If it is determined that Lincoln had MEN 2B, he’d be the earliest recorded case of that type of cancer. But as news of this theory has spread, there are already other members of the medical community saying that it isn’t possible.

What do you think? Should efforts be made to test some of Lincoln’s remains for MEN 2B? Or should we leave the remains alone and keep it a mystery? Share your thoughts here with other Science Buzz readers.

If you want to learn more about this, here’s the link to an extensive Washington Post article on the topic.