22
Jul
05

I recently received an email from a reader that was very complimentary of the subject matter I’ve discussed, but at the same time they couldn’t help but want to know more about some of the more gruesome aspects of my job. I’ve received similar “requests? such as this one—direct or implied. I responded with my usual explanation that I did not wish to alienate or offend anyone nor did I wish to use the misfortune of others as shock value to attract readers.

The reader wrote me back, pointing out that anyone who continued to “voluntarily read? beyond a title such as “Coroner Stories? should be prepared for whatever gruesome subject matter that follows.

Almost immediately, I realized that there was a parallel between the offensiveness of my website and the offensiveness of an auto fatality. Every so often a citizen calls the office and complains because they were driving past an auto collision on the highway and saw a dead body at the side of the road or hanging from a car. The image haunted them to the point that they were unable to sleep that night.

I’ve ended up talking to some of these callers. I explain that 99% of the deaths that we work in the public eye are covered long before our office responds to the scene—a polite way of saying it’s not our fault. Instead of assigning blame to another agency, I assure them that they were probably just unfortunate enough to drive by moments before the body was covered. After hanging up, I daydream about the response I would have liked to have given…

“Here’s an idea—don’t look! Any time there are more than two patrol cars at the side of the road, it’s more than just a traffic stop. Lanes of traffic merging into one, road flares, and the presence of rescue vehicles indicate there is not a routine “exchange of information? collision ahead. Upon arriving at a scene, officers aren’t concerned about the weak constitutions of rubberneckers. Their primary concern is to determine who needs medical attention and who is beyond it. Just watch the car in front of you instead of surveying the damage as you pass so you don’t cause a secondary collision blocking the only lane around the first one.?

Sorry for the tangent just then. I guess I’ve handled more of those complaints than I’d realized. I’ll try to get back on topic now. Long story short, here are my thoughts. Since I started this website, no one has complained about the current level of graphic content and several people have posed questions that would have required more graphic content. Most of those questions have been variations of “What’s the grossest thing you’ve ever seen??

As I said, I’ve politely steered clear of those types of questions and instead have presented more vanilla aspects of this job such as filthy houses or general aspects of decomposition and such. My goal has always been to provide an accurate glimpse of life as a death investigator for those who have only seen Hollywood’s version of reality.

In the future I’ll try to offer a little more insight into the more gruesome aspects of death investigation. I’ll continue to present details matter-of-factly and with all due respect in order to avoid employing techniques that I criticize Hollywood for using.

The way I see it, this job is what it is. At any given moment it can be gruesome, rewarding, humorous, tragic—just about anything that any other job can be. I’m sure it will continue to be long after I move on to something else, decide to retire, or snap while waiting in line at Krispy Kreme and end up on the losing end of a hostage negotiation.

I’ve probably given the subject (not the hostage taking part) a lot more consideration than was necessary, but it’s in my nature. I’d be interested in hearing the thoughts of others—public or private. I’ll continue with my policy of publicly posting comments (good or bad, but relevant) and keeping emails private using only paraphrased excerpts in my posts. I look forward to any non-Texas Hold’em comments…

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2 Responses to “”


  1. 1 Dieter
    November 2, 2005 at 5:03 am

    I must say I’ve read this article with great empathy (at least I hope so). You strike me as a very intelligent very integer person and I feel nothing but respect for what you’re doing here. Please don’t let what we call in Belgium “disaster-tourists” set you off.

    Dieter

  2. 2 Gina
    November 2, 2005 at 12:25 pm

    I’ve been keeping up with you journal since late August and I think it is so interesting.

    I am currently in school taking up Criminal Justice as my major and I wanted to know if you can give me some info on the necessary steps to become a coroner?

    Gina:

    Here’s a link to an old post I wrote with some information that should answer your question:
    “Death Investigation Employment”

    As for becoming a coroner, I think the best approach would be to start off working for a coroner as an investigator. The coroner’s office in many jurisdictions is a lot like a sheriff’s office–there’s a lot of deputies that work under the direction of an elected sheriff. In fact, in some parts of the country the two offices are combined. Once you’ve established yourself as competent in the field, you’ll have the “clout” necessary to run for that particular office in the future.

    Good luck,

    A Douglas


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