1912 Could doctors tell time of death


Hitch

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Jan 6, 2006
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Sorry if this is the wrong place to post this, but I did end know where to place it ells where.

Okay, I have a question.

If a person was found dead on the Titanic (before the sinking of course.) Could the doctors onboard be able tell what time he/she would have died? Or is that something the doctors would end know in that time?

Thanks for your help.
-Carl
 

Bob Godfrey

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Nov 22, 2002
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Any experienced physician could provide (then as now) a rough estimate based on obvious signs like progress of rigor mortis and especially the loss of body temperature. To offer any sort of accuracy, however, they would have needed measurements taken with a rectal thermometer calibrated for low temperatures - the ordinary clinical type carried by a ship's surgeon would be no use at all. And even with the right equipment, at best they could have given only an estimate of time of death measured in hours rather than minutes.
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Apr 11, 2001
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Exact time of death is still hard to pinpoint because so many factors come into the equation from the temperature of the room where the body is found, to the peculiarities of the individual body structure, to the position of the body in relationship to heat sources (sun, radiator, fireplaces, windows, fans, air conditioners, etc.) It is pretty easy now with modern apparatus to get it within about an hour though, if the body has not been moved from another place or tampered with in any way after death. An examination of the stomach contents in relationship to digestion rate from the last known meal is helpful often, even though that can vary from person to person, based on health, weight and personal metabolic rate which is unique to every person. All this came to light in the famous Lizzie Borden case. Fascinating topic.
 
C

Cornelius Thiessen

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Shelley, Doctor Thomas Noguchi the former LA coroner is one of the best at this. Very fascinating indeed.
As far as the bodies in the water go, that was simple arithmetic, pocketwatches worn by quite a few were not waterproof in 1912.
 

Hitch

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Thanks guys. So they could end be able tell what time he/she would have died? Also if the body is just found not in the water, not burned ect... just dead?
 

Bob Godfrey

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Carl, without knowing the details of the scenario you have in mind, no more precise answer can be given to your question. Any physician on Titanic would have had the experience to assess whether a person had been dead for several hours rather than a few minutes. But they had no way to determine an exact time of death. They were equipped for most medical emergencies, but not for forensic investigations.
 

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