The Institute of Forensic Medicine opened its doors to the public last week to offer a glimpse into its work.
An expert explains the autopsy process to visitors at the Institute of Forensic Medicine. APICHIT JINAKUL
The occasion was intended to mark the institute's 60th anniversary of helping police in cases of suspicious deaths.
Forensic scientists will usually work on dead bodies in a silent room, recording what they observe, and sending their conclusions to police investigators, who may use them as evidence in criminal cases.
While the public may hear about the results of forensic examinations in news reports, most people have little knowledge of the lengthy processes in that room.
Pol Col Supichai Limsiwawongse, a forensic expert at the institute, said his team wanted to change this and allow people in to watch their work. "We want to tell people what we are doing," he said.
Members of the public interested in observing the institute's work can get in contact. They can call the institute, state who they are, why and when they wish to visit, and how many people will be involved, and their requests will be considered on a case-by-case basis.
Pol Col Supichai has worked as a forensic physician at the institute's forensic pathology unit for 15 years. He said he felt proud that his work could help police solve crimes.
Forensic work is needed when the law requires a cause of death to be determined in unusual cases, such as crimes, suicides, accidents, animal attacks or those involving unknown factors.
What forensic experts have to do is to tell police whether or not a questionable death was a result of a crime.
The institute typically receives between eight and 12 bodies a day, but sometimes the number can be as high as 40, Pol Col Supichai said.
After receiving a body, the physicians will start by taking photos of the corpse. They will then check the body for external clues that could be used as evidence, before conducting an autopsy.
The photographs will record wounds and other traces on the bodies.
Experts will then look for other clues. For example, they may find tissue under a victim's fingernails if the victim was involved in a struggle before death.
After that, experts will observe changes in the victims' bodies to determine how long they have been dead.
In this stage, "we will examine muscle contraction from the head, jaw and neck down to the toes", Pol Col Supichai explained. Next, experts will start conducting an internal examination which will allow them to see whether there are any irregularities in the internal organs.
They will open up the victims' skulls to examine brains, respiratory tunnels, bloodlines and the top part of the spine before moving on to lungs, hearts and digestive organs.
After the autopsy, the scientists will usually be able to determine the cause of death and possibly rule on whether a crime was involved, Pol Col Supichai said.
All these steps are essential to help police make correct conclusions in criminal cases, Pol Col Supichai said.
They will know whether murderers had tried to hide the real causes of the deaths to deceive police into believing the victims died in an accident.
Pol Col Supichai recalled on example. "Police said a victim had burned to death in a fire nearly two hours earlier, but my autopsy found the victim had died 12 hours earlier," he said. This suggested the victim's killer had burned the body in an attempt to cover up the murder.
Pol Col Supichai is an important member of the forensic team at the institute, helping police investigators gain solid evidence for use in their prosecutions.
"I've examined so many dead bodies that I no longer feel surprised at the outcomes," Pol Col Supichai said.
"I'm aware this is a thankless job but I'm proud of being part of the country's justice process."
Contact Crime Track: firstname.lastname@example.org