Seeing Death Differently
British researchers have been investigating the use of CT and MRI for post-mortem evaluations. The cause of death can often be determined using one of these great technologies. Grieving families eager to learn how their loved one died sometimes do not want a traditional autopsy performed for cultural or religious reasons. Using one of these radiologic technologies provides an alternative.
The study looked at 182 deceased people in which the cause of death was unknown. "The radiologists' cause of death determination based on CT scans agreed with the more definitive autopsy findings 68% of the time. Conclusions based on MRI were accurate 57% of the time." A CT scan was not helpful in identifying heart problems as the cause of death. However, it was determined that if a CT angiogram of the heart was done after the scan, "...radiologists could pinpoint the cause of death in up to half of all cases, with just a slight error rate..."
Autopsies are still considered the gold standard for cause of death but the supplemental use of CT or MRI has been shown to be useful. Some post-mortem scanning is currently done in Sweden and Australia. It should be noted that as the human body changes in response to death, the images look different from a live scan. Radiologists would need special training to make accurate diagnoses on the deceased. Scanners dedicated to post-mortem evaluations would need to be established. Also, it would need to be determined if licensed technologists would do these scans.
When the opportunity presents itself to see through different eyes, we must open wide and watch the dark "develop" into light.