Forensic Anthropology Internship Series Ep.3: Bone Donation

Every beginning of a week in the Medical Examiner Office is the busiest, as the bodies came in throughout the weekend are all lined up for check-out check and autopsies on Monday. Also, a lot of parties going on, especially in Miami every weekend, young adults accidentally died from overdose, drunk drive and so on could happen more easily. Of one of the particular Monday, among the 5 cases that came in, there were two really remarkable ones.

Both of the cases are having young deceased individuals, with one female and one male respectively. The female was expired from a car accident, where the male was suffered nasal congestion suddenly and expired.

What really fascinating (I know this might sound inappropriate, apologize for that. Fascinating from the medical and forensic fashion,) is the stitches on both deceases’ limbs. We were told that some of their limb bones are taken out for bone donation. I have never thought about bone donation before (sorry for my ignorance). According to one of the morgue technicians, those fresh and healthy bones for “transplant” have to be removed within a day from the deceased since the heart stopped beating. After taking out the bones for donation, they would stuff towels back into the limbs and sew it up. The limbs do not look any differences, nor feel any differences when you first touch it. But when the morgue technician was trying to clean them lifted their limbs up and twisted it. The difference is huge!

Who can donate bones?

According to the Musculoskeletal Transplant Foundation, majority of bone donors were health and relatively young deceased who died in accidents, or sudden illness (heart attack or stroke). Screenings including medical histories and social histories (location of any high-risk behaviors for transmissible diseases will automatically eliminate from the pool for possible donation). Potential donors with histories of any condition that would affect long-term bone performance would also be excluded.

Bone donation counted as tissue donation. Unlike organ donation, tissue recipients do not have to match with the donors, as rejection is not the mainly concern. Organ donation donors are basically brain dead, and the donation process occurs when mechanical support that continue the organs to “live” for an extended short period of time after the death of the patient. Organ donation needs patience, as it requires matching blood type, medical status and so forth, whereas tissue donation only requires patients to be brain dead or cardiac death.

Also, for the lady who expired from the accident, she did not have any trauma in her body except for few broken ribs (which could possibly hurt her lungs), suspecting she might have been drink and drive. Her major blow was the blunt force trauma on her left posterior temple bone. The blow was so strong that the energy transmitted all across the occipital bone and reached the right temple bone, as well as fractured the base of the skull too. It gives me goose bumps. I hope that the blow did not kill her slow! The brain did not look abnormal except being bloody. The Medical Examiner says the blow could have done some traumas on the brain (yet we did not get to see the cutting of the brain today), but that amount of blood was sufficient to make her choke and swallow her own blood and caused aspiration on her lungs. Doctor says the blow should have her killed pretty quickly but may slow down due to the aspiration.

One personal thought:

I think if the government used the traumas and the fractures as warning for “Do not drink and drive” commercials would be working more effective than ordinary movie clips. This lady’s traumas definitely warn me more effectively to stay out of alcohol if I am driving.