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By D. Vieira

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Descriptions of the state of rigor and livor mortis as well as the body temperature of a subject helps a forensic medicine expert to estimate the time interval since death. Environmental assessment, including temperature, heating or cooling systems, moisture, and wind conditions must be made at a death scene so that the environmental influence on a decedent can be determined. The assessment should also include the types of clothing and jewelry. This information may be needed to assist in determinating the time a subject was last seen alive.

Always be professional―remember that onlookers, including the decedent's family, and news media may be at the perimeter of the scene, so do not say or do anything that would reflect poorly on yourself and the organization you represent. ) should be placed in bags designated for investigators' refuse, and not in the garbage cans that are part of the scene because in actuality, they are evidence. Never remove items from a scene for souvenirs (Rogers, 2004; Lew & Matshes, 2005). In any given case of suspected homicide, it is self-evident that the forensic medicine expert who performs the autopsy should visit the death scene because all injuries must be examined within the context of the event.

The ambient temperature should be taken as near to the body as possible, as microenvironments can exist, even inside buildings or rooms. Information should be sought as to how much disturbance of the ambient temperature might have occurred, such as opening doors and windows, or turning fires or central heating on or off, so that some idea of post-discovery distortions of temperature can be estimated later. The insertion of a thermometer into the rectum at this stage in the investigation, as advocated by some textbooks, is controversial.

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