There should also be an ethics committee involved in deciding on the appropriate research to conduct.
This should also help with fostering public support for the project.
Donation of Bodies
I would recommend that a procedure be put in place to enable people to donate their bodies to a HTF in
the UK. It could be a matter of copying the forms used in Australia, where a person decides to donate
their body to the university medical department for research, and can then specify that they will also
allow their body to be used for forensic research. The FAC forms also have a specific area where the
donor can indicate whether or not they are willing for trauma research to be conducted on their remains.
In this way the donors will always be giving informed consent as to what they are donating to.
A memorial garden or area where family can visit would also be a good idea.
There should be a way of maximising the diversity of the donor bodies. Both the FAC and AFTER have the
same issue with most donors being old white men. Information sessions with potential donors might be a
way of increasing the diversity of the bodies donated.
Setting up a Human Taphonomy Facility in the UK will not be easy. It will require cooperation from a lot of
different public and private sector partners to make it happen. But I believe that if we don’t do this we are
leaving the UK behind in terms of forensic anthropological research. We have the opportunity to set up
the first facility of its kind in Europe, and to gain the international renown that this would entail.
This article was first published in CSEye in February 2018.
Dr Richard Shepherd
I always really wanted to be a forensic pathologist, so I read Unnatural Causes with
some relish. Whilst more autobiographical than anticipated, but none the worse for it,
this book is an account of a Dick Shepherd’s career as a forensic pathologist from his
first encounter with Professor Keith Simpson’s book, Simpsons’ Forensic Medicine as a
teenager through to his writing of the twelfth edition of the same text and beyond. He takes the reader
on a journey through the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s punctuated with some of the significant cases on
which he worked, many of which will be familiar - the Hungerford shootings, the murders of Stephen
Lawrence and Rachel Nickell, the Marchioness and Clapham rail disasters to name but a few.
Each case brought its own challenges and learning, but throughout, one gets an impression of the man
and how these cases, sometimes all-consuming, affected his life both professional and personal. And it is
the honesty with which the latter is recounted that leaves the reader with a sense of the toll that the job
can take over time.
As the book progresses, changes in the way that forensic pathology services are provided are touched
upon - an interesting parallel to the way in which forensic science provision has also changed.
This is a gripping and ultimately heart-wrenching read, recommended for those who are interested in or
thinking of forensic pathology as a career but also for those of us who want a glimpse into this fascinating
Kerri Allen 24/4/19