Monday, December 14, 2009

New 'virtual autopsies' - good for Jews

The Economist reports on a new 'virtual autopsy system':

The body needing to be examined is first scanned using a computed tomography (CT) machine, a process which takes about 20 seconds and creates up to 25,000 images, each one a slice through the body. Different tissues, bodily substances and foreign objects (such as bullets) absorb the scanner’s X-rays in varying amounts... Air pockets are shown as blue, soft tissues as beige, blood vessels as red and bone as white. A pathologist can then peel through layers of virtual skin and muscle with the click of a computer mouse.

To make the process easier, Dr Persson and his colleagues have also created a virtual autopsy table. This is a large touch-sensitive LCD screen which stands like a table in an operating room, displaying an image of the body. Up to six people can gather around the table and, with a swipe of a finger, remove layers of muscle, zoom in and out of organs and slice through tissue with a virtual knife.

The system is already being used by Swedish police because it offers incredibe detail, is quick, and 'does not alter the evidence'.

Of course, there is a Jewish application too, for religious families who (generally) object to performing 'real' autopsies, which tamper with the body, for halachic reasons.

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