Television has made the morgue a place of intrigue and suspense, but not everyone can become a pathologist or coroner. However, morgue assistants exist to help pathologists and are a part of the excitement of forensic science. The education for a morgue assistant is less rigorous than that of a pathologist. With just a few years of training, anyone could be performing the daily duties of a morgue assistant.
Handling the Deceased
Morgue assistants must handle the deceased body for most of the time it is at the morgue. An assistant will move the body in and out of cold storage and prepare the body for the autopsy procedure. The assistant will also help the pathologist during the autopsy with such things as opening and closing the body and removing organs. For this reason, a morgue assistant must be knowledgeable about surgical instruments and anatomy to carry out this function of the job efficiently.
Morgue assistants are responsible for cleaning and sterilising the surgical equipment used in the autopsy procedure. Their job is to see that all of the bodily fluids have been properly cleaned from all surfaces and that the instruments are ready for the next usage. An assistant will also see that supplies are on hand in the correct amount and will reorder those supplies that are low. This includes such things as office supplies as well.
A morgue assistant is responsible for collecting certain types of data. He can make note of such external things as height, weight, eye colour and identifying scars. He can also take photographs of the deceased and transport the body to the X-ray room. The assistant will also report and handle evidence in the form of the deceased's clothes and any other details of the deceased person such as matter under the fingernails. This evidence will be processed according to the established policies and procedures of the morgue.
Managing the Death Scene
Morgue assistants will often transport the deceased from the death scene to the morgue. An assistant will have to endure the conditions in which the body was found, which may include infectious disease. She will also have to write and file reports regarding the deceased and how the body was found. The assistant will have to deal with traumatic deaths and those who may have been dead for a long period of time. Occasionally, an assistant may be asked to testify in court as to what she saw at a crime scene.