When it comes to traumatic events, nothing is so uniquely crushing as the death of a loved one by a self-inflicted gunshot. The suicide of a family member or other loved one is always highly challenging. When an individual takes his or her own life using a firearm, the aftermath for loved ones is even more profoundly difficult in a number of different ways. This includes not only the emotional aspects of such a loss but the ramifications associated with the cleanup or remediation process associated with the aftermath of a self-inflicted death by firearm.
Biohazards and a Self-Inflicted Gunshot Death
When a traumatic death occurs, including one caused by a self-inflicted gunshot, the death scene must be treated as if it was contaminated by biohazardous substances. Whenever blood, bodily fluids, and other biomatter is present, a person coming into contact with such a scene must always err on the side of caution. Even when a family member or other loved one dies in this manner, the reality is that you cannot be absolutely certain that the deceased individual was free from any dangerous, disease-causing pathogens. Examples of bloodborne pathogens that can jeopardize the health of others include:
- Hepatitis B
- Hepatitis C
As a consequence of the need to use due caution when confronting the scene of a death by gunshot, safety is an underlying element of the cleanup process. No person should come into direct contact with the aftermath of a death of gunshot without first donning appropriate personal protective equipment that includes:
- HEPA mask or respirator
- Protective eyewear
- Uniform, smock, or other garment covering
The Emotional Toll of Self-Inflicted Gunshot Cleanup
As was noted a moment ago, a truly traumatic occurrence is losing a loved one by a self-inflicted gunshot. The last thing a family member or other loved one need do is to further aggravate the grief and make the bereavement process even more challenging by electing to the cleanup of the scene of the death on his or her own. Undertaking the cleanup of this type of death scene on his or her own can prove to be emotionally devastating. Setting the physical challenges of this type of cleanup aside for a moment (and they will be discussed shortly), the emotional element associated with self-inflicted gunshot cleanup alone warrants the intervention of biohazard remediation professional.
Law Enforcement and the Removal of the Remains
Law enforcement must be notified when a person dies as the result of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. The police or sheriff are called upon to investigate the death to rule out foul play. In addition, the coroner is called to the scene. In the state of California, as is the case across the country, when a death occurs as the result of a suspected suicide, an autopsy and other forensic testing are performed.
After investigating the scene of the death, the body is removed and transported to the county medical examiner’s office. The autopsy mandated by law typically is completed within 24 to 48 hours. At this time, the coroner releases the body to the next of kin. Arrangements can be made with a funeral home for the transport of the remains.
Three-Part Self-Inflicted Gunshot Cleanup Process
In the aftermath of a self-inflicted gunshot death, a three-part cleanup or remediation process is to be followed. This three-part process is recommended whether it is undertaken by a family member or other layperson or by a professional suicide cleanup company. The three elements of self-inflicted gunshot cleanup are:
- Removal or biological matter and cleaning
The biological matter at the scene of a self-inflicted gunshot death includes blood, bodily fluids, and other biological matter. All of this biological matter is removed and placed into an appropriate biohazard waste container. In addition, objects at the scene that have been contaminated by blood or other biological matter and that cannot be cleaned are disposed of as well.
When biomatter and contaminated items that cannot be cleaned are removed from the scene, thorough cleaning or scrubbing occurs. This is done to ensure that any remaining biomatter is eliminated.
When the removal and cleaning process is completed, the scene of death is sanitized. Sanitization involves the use of medical-grade sanitizing agents. These agents are designed to eradicate any dangerous pathogens that may be present at the scene.
Finally, in some cases, a self-inflicted gunshot death scene may have an odor associated with it. If that is the case, part of the biohazard or suicide cleanup process is the elimination of any disagreeable odor.
The ultimate objective of self-inflicted gunshot death cleanup (or biohazard remediation) is to return the premises to a livable or usable condition. Any evidence of the death is eliminated, including any potentially dangerous viruses or bacteria that may have been at the scene as a result of the gunshot and death.