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The Cops Issue

The Truth Is In There

Working with dead people and the ones around them who are hurt and upset is not very pleasant. The only beautiful part is the truth.

Photo by Mona Ødegård

Working with dead people and the ones around them who are hurt and upset is not very pleasant. The only beautiful part is the truth. That’s my mission, to find out how those people died. That type of information is essential to the people who are still alive. Not because it’s comforting, but because it’s a necessity, it enables people to cope with the mourning process. You could say I’m a spokesperson for medical truth. Forensic medicine is an old branch of science. It’s interdisciplinary. You have to know a shit load of stuff about the human body, about diseases, injuries, drugs, chemicals and medicines. Any substance can constitute a deadly threat, depending on amount and situation. People die and we can’t make a medical examination of all of them, so sometimes we have to make “rough guesses”. In most cases the cause of death is known. We issue a death certificate and people get their burial. In about 25% of the cases we get an autopsy done, performed by a pathologist. Pathology comes from the word pathos, to suffer, and a pathologist is a guy who knows everything about diseases. All those people have often died of cancer, cardiovascular disease or of other common diseases. Then there’s a bunch left that die during unclear circumstances or as a consequence of violence. This applies mostly to people who are young and healthy, old and healthy or infants. So if you fit into one of these groups, and happen to die without a known disease or from external violence, you’ll end up on my table. So, what do I do to you? I start by scrutinizing every micrometer of your body. There’s a lot to figure out and plenty of possible ways of investigation. First I make an exterior examination, to look for superficial damage. Getting down to the interior part takes knives and scissors. Then I examine your organs. I make an appraisal of size, shape and weight, all according to customary rules. Microscopy is a good thing. There are a lot of changes you cannot see with the naked eye. Then there are blood tests. You look at the concentration of various substances, e.g. drugs, medicines and poisons, in the blood and excrements. Hair. I can tell a lot about your lifestyle just by taking a closer look at one of your straws. Just ask any hairdresser and they’ll tell you the same thing. Your hairdresser is the first person who’ll know if you’re pregnant, doing drugs, or if you’re anorexic. Me, I can see if you’re a smoker, of what and when. I can tell most about your bad habits. That’s what it’s all about. Dissecting you. Being a forensic doctor is hard work. I’m subjected to pressure. Whenever it’s time to press charges, then lives, peoples’ freedom, honor, financial situations and marriages depend on my words and findings. I have to watch my tongue. But all I care about is the truth. I don’t care if my statement will get you liberated or convicted. I couldn’t care less. That’s your problem. I just want my diagnosis to be absolutely correct. And it’s not for me to decide whether people are lying about the cause of death. The investigators can only see if my discoveries agree with one or another’s statement. That’s it. Otherwise I’m just a guy who’s as clever as you are. Maybe a little less. JOVAN RAJS, AS TOLD TO WIM WIKLUND