If you are fortunate, you will be able to travel through life without coming upon or finding the body of a deceased person. There can be no doubt that finding a dead body is a truly unsettling experience. It’s one thing to be with a loved one when they leave their life on Earth. It’s something altogether different to rather inadvertently come upon the remains of a dead person. Understanding that the discovery of a body is disconcerting, you’re wise to take note now of what you should and should not do should you ever find a dead body.
Do Not Touch the Body
A fundamental rule you must keep in mind if you find a dead body is that you absolutely must not make physical contact with the remains. Unless the remains are those of a very recently deceased person, you are likely to have no confusion about whether or not what you discovered is a dead body as opposed to a person in medical distress.
You must not make contact with the remains for your own sake. A decomposing human body very well may contain what technically is known as dangerous pathogens. These pathogens can include bacteria and viruses that can cause serious and even fatal illnesses. For example, you might encounter a body that carries bloodborne pathogens like:
- Hepatitis B
- Hepatitis C
There is another important reason why you must not make physical contact with a deceased person’s remains when you discover a body. A determination will need to be made by law enforcement and the local coroner as to why, how, and when the individual in question died. When a previously undiscovered death is identified because of a body is found, there can be one of a number of different reasons why the person is now deceased. These include:
Because the cause and manner of death will need to be determined, it is important that you not make contact with the remains. Doing so could negatively impact the investigation that will need to be undertaken regarding the cause and manner of death.
Do Not Touch Anything at the Death Scene
In a similar vein, if you discover a dead body you must take care not to make unnecessary contact with anything at the death scene. For example, assume that you discovered a body or a person who was killed by someone else. In order to preserve the crime scene as part of a criminal investigation and ultimately a prosecution of a wrongdoer, it is imperative that absolutely nothing is disturbed at the death scene.
Upon discovering a dead body, immediately dial 911. This is probably a given in your mind. However, it bears reiterating that calling 911 is imperative. Appropriate authorities, including the police, paramedics, and the coroner will need to be dispatched to the scene.
Paramedics are called as a matter of routine, even when it appears clear that a dead body is what has been found and not a person in need of medical treatment. In California, a paramedic is able to declare that a person is deceased. In many other states, the remains would have to be taken to the hospital for a declaration of death to occur.
Fully Protect Your Safety
As was mentioned, you may have discovered a dead body because the individual who is now deceased may have met with foul play. Thus, in order to protect yourself, you may need to withdraw from the scene. How this is accomplished depends on the specific circumstances at hand.
If you find a body in a residence, you might want to get out of the house and wait for law enforcement in front of the house. If you were out for a walk or hike and drove to a hiking area or park, you may want to retreat to your car. In any event, the 911 dispatch operator should remain on the line with you.
Cooperate With Investigators
As the individual who discovered the remains of a deceased person, investigators will have questions for you. These are likely to include investigators from the police or sheriff’s department. They also very well may include representatives of the coroner’s office as well. In order for the case of the deceased individual you discovered to be processed appropriately, it is imperative that you provide honest, accurate, and complete information when questioned by authorities.
As was referenced previously, a dead body can be the site or source of biohazards. This becomes an issue not only when it comes to discovering the body in the first instance but when considering how the cleanup process is to be undertaken. If the discovery of a body was made at a property for which you are responsible, the biohazard cleanup associated with the remains may be your duty.
Merely because you bear responsibility for seeing that a biohazard cleanup is undertaken doesn’t mean that you have to undertake the process yourself. Rather you should seek the professional assistance of an experienced biohazard remediation specialist.