Two dead bodies were carried by a black police truck to the morgue at a government hospital. Just an hour ago, both of them were in a luxury car that sped along the Federal Highway. Half an hour ago, they had left a nightclub after having fun with liquor.
Why this fatal incident had occured? Is this a way to end a life?
Figure 1 : Dead bodies are closed with plastic before being brought to morgue.
In a case of fatal accident like this, autopsy examination will be conducted. The autopsy is performed to find out the reason why the accident happened.
Autopsy is a process of scientific examination to determine the cause of death. The death of the individuals involved in the accident must be determined in order to provide justice to those involved, whether alive or dead.
However, many people do not know the reason for an autopsy examination to be conducted on deceased body. Many stories and speculations had spread among the communities that could influence the emotions and rationale of the family members.
Autopsy as part of the investigation
In a case like the example above, the investigating officer is burdened with many questions to be answered. Therefore, he has the full authority to conduct the investigation in any way.
Among those questions need to be answered, the most important one is ‘how the accident is actually happened?’ Then, more questions arise such as; ‘were the victims under the influence of drugs and alcohol?’, ‘does the driver fell asleep during the incident?’, ‘are there any other things that contributed to this accident?’ and ‘what about the health condition of the victims prior to the accident?’.
In accordance to the legislation set out in the Road Transport Act 1987 (Act 333), the limit for alcohol content in a person’s blood who is driving a motor vehicle is 80 milligrams per 100 millilitres of blood. A total limit of 107 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres is for urine sample. (Commissioner of Law Revision, Malaysia, 2006)
Based on this statement, if a drunk driver with a high alcohol concentration in his blood involved in an accident resulting in death, he is committing a crime. Therefore, it is important for the investigating officers to confirm whether the victim of a fatal accident is drunk or not.
Liquor can kill
Liquor is a fermented alcoholic beverage. It is the earliest drug compounds produced and used by the world community (Kobilinsky, 2012).
The commonly drunk liquor is ethanol with its chemical structure CH3CH2OH (Kobilinsky, 2012).
A person who consumes significant amount of alcohol every day (more than six cups) is more easily to develop diseases related to alcohol that can be fatal. Not only that, alcohol can cause death in a variety of ways due to violence, accidents, toxic poisoning, etc. (Kobilinsky, 2012).
When someone consumes alcohol in a large amount, it affects his or her motor function. Motor functions that are controlled by the central nervous system will be affected as a result of a chemical reaction of alcohol to the body systems. (National Institute of Health, 2008).
As a result, the brain function will be interrupted at the expense of focusing. At one level, a person who drinks too much alcohol can be resulted in a coma and subsequently died.
Imagine how the effects of alcohol on the individual who is driving. Of course the driver cannot control the vehicle normally. It can be viewed as a time bomb that could explode at any time. Because of that, drivers who drove under the influence of alcohol causing death or injury to another person may be prosecuted under Article 44. (1) Road Transport Act 1987.
The offenders can be imprisoned for up to ten years and fined twenty thousand ringgit. The court can order the offender’s license be suspended for up to five years based on the same act under Article 44. (3) (Pesuruhjaya Penyemak Undang-undang, Malaysia, 2006).
Autopsies’ finding are essential
During the autopsy examination, samples of blood and urine from the victim’s body were collected. At least 10 millilitres and 25 millilitres of blood and urine were taken for toxicological analysis respectively. (Jabatan Kimia Malaysia, 2004).
A toxicological analysis is conducted to check whether alcohol or any other drug was present in the body during the incident. Blood and urine samples are suitable for analysis of the content and concentration of alcohol and drugs (Kobilinsky, 2012).
Such compounds will not be found in the deceased, if the victim does not consume it (via drink or injection) before his death. However, there is also the possibility of low alcohol content in the biological samples in cases of decomposed body.
Figure 2 : Sample of liquor analyzed in the laboratory as part of the investigation.
Source: Makmal Perubatan Forensik, Hospital Sg. Buloh
Both blood and urine samples will be tested using gas chromatography technique. This technique is an effective technique to measure the concentration of alcohol in a sample. Both samples are left in an incubator to evaporate the volatile substance(s). The evaporated substances are then sampled and analysed to determine the identity of the substance(s) and its concentration in the sample.
When a reasonable alcohol concentration were found in the blood and urine of the victim, the investigating officer can confidently concludes that there is a link between the alcohol in the body and the accident occurred.
Drunkenness is temporary suicide (Bertrand Russell)
Finally, both victims body will be handed back to their families. The police will give the explanation assisted by the doctor conducting autopsy to the family members. Therefore, the family member and friends will find out that the autopsy examinations were done to help them to better understand the situation.
Obviously, the initial police investigations find that the accident occurred under the influence of alcohol. The information was corroborated by witnesses (friends and people around them) who saw both men were having fun at the club the night before the accident.
- Jabatan Kimia Malaysia. (2004). Laman Web Rasmi Jabatan Kimia Malaysia. Retrieved 06 20, 2013, from http://www.kimia.gov.my: http://www.kimia.gov.my/images/document/forensik/borang%20kimia%2015.pdf
- Kementerian Kesihatan Malaysia. (2012, 02 22). Portal Rasmi Kementerian Kesihatan Malaysia. Retrieved 06 19, 2013, from http://www.moh.gov.my: http://www.moh.gov.my/circulars/253?mode=kkm
- Kobilinsky, L. (2012). Forensic Chemistry Handbook. New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
- National Institute of Health. (2008, 04). National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Retrieved 06 20, 2013, from http://www.niaaa.nih.gov: http://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health/alcohols-effects-body
- Pesuruhjaya Penyemak Undang-undang, Malaysia. (2006, 07 01). Kementerian Pengangkutan Malaysia. Retrieved 06 19, 2013, from http://www.mot.gov.my: http://www.mot.gov.my/Sectoral/Documents/Land/Akta%20Pengangkutan%20Jalan%201987%20%28akta%20333%29.pdf
|Last Reviewed||:||23 August 2019|
|Writer / Translator||:||Khairul Adli b. Nikman|
|Accreditor||:||Dr. Shahidan bin Md. Noor|
|Reviewer||:||Dr. Khoo Lay See|