Autopsy Q&A by Dr. Stöppler

Do the drawer doors of the cases where the dead bodies are kept in the morgue have handles on the inside just in case? This has crossed my mind a million times over, it must be some weird phobia.

Answer:

I have never seen drawer doors in a morgue refrigerator (bodies are stored at a cool temperature) that have handles on the inside. I assume you are wondering what would happen if a person were mistaken for dead and taken to the morgue while still alive. Doctors must conduct a physical examination to legally declare that a person is dead. This examination involves listening for the absence of heart sounds and carotid artery pulse, listening and looking for the absence of respirations, and checking the pupils for the absence of the papillary light reflex (constricting in response to light). The body of the deceased is also examined by members of the nursing staff and by morgue personnel. In short, it is extremely unlikely that a living person could ever be placed inside a morgue refrigerator.

Thank you for your question.


Last Editorial Review: 1/12/2007