Friday, February 01, 2008

My Patients Can't Talk to Me

This month, just for a little change of pace, I'm working in the medical examiner's office. This morning I watched my first autopsy. I haven't decided how I'm going to write about this experience, because I'm bound ethically and legally in several ways. One, they made me sign a form stating that I wouldn't reveal personal information about any of the "decedents". Two, it might be easy to inadvertently reveal information that might seem harmless. For example (and I made this up entirely out of my own head), if I were to examine a male who died in a car accident, and I were to say "oh, his tox was positive for alcohol and cocaine", and someone astute went and looked at newspapers and found an accident that seemed similar, well then I've just leaked information about an ongoing investigation. Again, I made that example up. I just wonder about my ability to distort the facts well enough to be HIPAA friendly and ethical, so I probably won't put any autopsy stories on here (or at least, not about the findings).

Also, a friend of mine begged me not to gross her out. Please, she said, don't describe the smell, because I just don't want to know. That got me to thinking, how does one talk about autopsies without being disgusting? Around here, we look at photos of crime scenes, dead bodies, and such right after breakfast, then go work on dead bodies. The view of what is or isn't disgusting is necessarily skewed around here. You may notice that I'm trying to be very tactful here; I don't want to really offend anyone. So, whenever possible this month, I'll have my very squeamish husband read my posts before they go up, or I'll warn you if it gets gory for some reason.

I do want this to be a good month. I'm hoping to go to crime scenes and to court as often as possible. This should hopefully quench any desire I may have had to play Nancy Drew, or Sara Sidle in today's lingo. For this month, I'm doing something I will never, ever do again. I think that is really cool. Albeit kind of disgusting. I predict a LOT of showers this month. I may have to invest in lotion and heavy conditioner from all the washing.

PS: I got my Step 2 CK and CS scores back, and I passed everything, so I just have to pass jurisprudence and in the words of a friend, "not screw up" for 4 months and them I'm DONE!


Barbie said...

Advice I got from a pathologist: wash your hands every once in a while with the surgical scrub brushes. You will feel so much cleaner after that then regular hand-washing after a gross day.

Tiny Shrink said...

I have yet to see a surgical scrub brush, or indeed a sink where I'd want to touch any part of it, anywhere near the morgue.