Death is the end of the road but not for the body. The body will have to go through forense, but it can become challenging if the body starts decaying. Decaying sheds the body parts, making them unidentical to the living human. After a long time, primary parts of the body have decayed, almost impossible to identify.
Why can’t a body be identified after a couple of days?
Here is why.
Decomposition mainly involves two processes known as Autolysis and Putrefaction.
- Autolysis – Owing to the cessation of biological functions within the body, respiration, and circulation, depriving the body of the primary nutrients such as oxygen and glucose required to survive. This results in an aseptic breakdown of cells caused by intracellular organs in a process known as autolysis.
- Putrefaction – This occurs due to the spread and activity of bacteria after death. After death, the body’s ability to keep these organisms in check ceases and then goes on to freely feed off the nutrients our bodies provide, contributing to decomposition and releasing certain malodorous gaseous products associated with the decomposing body. Hot temperatures usually accelerate the process.
The four stages of decomposition
Stage One: Autolysis
This is the first stage, called self-digestion. It begins immediately after death, and as soon as blood circulation and respiration stops, the body cannot get oxygen or remove waste. Meanwhile, excess carbon dioxide and other metabolic waste products increase the acidity of the intracellular environment, causing membranes of cell organelles to rupture and releasing enzymes that begin to degrade the cells from the inside out.
Stage Two: Bloat
Stage two of human decomposition mainly involves putrefaction and consists of bloating of the body. Then, bacteria and microorganisms colonizing the gut begin to digest cells of the body, releasing gasses. With no escape route, these gasses accumulate in the gut, expanding the intestinal lumen and distending the abdomen, giving it a bloated look. These gasses are usually sulfur-containing compounds that give the corpse an extremely unpleasant odor causing skin discoloration.
Stage Three: Active Decay
This decomposition liquid may flow through the mouth and nose and sometimes in the thorax.
The appearance of these fluids released through orifices indicates the beginning of active decay. Almost all tissues, except for hair, bones, and cartilage, are broken down in this stage, leaving naught but byproducts of decomposition. The cadaver loses the most mass during this stage.
Stage Four: Skeletonization
The human bones consist mainly of a calcium phosphate complex known as hydroxyapatite, together with a bony matrix made up of proteins known as collagen and osteoblasts, osteoclasts, and osteocytes cells.
As time goes on, the cells in the bones eventually die off due to loss of blood supply, leaving collagen and hydroxyapatite. Unlike most other proteins, collagen is relatively more challenging to break down by bacteria and may take years or decades to dissolve completely. The bony matrix is gone when this happens, leaving behind just the calcium-phosphate shell, minerals that eventually nourish the soil.
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