15 Medical Examiners Share the Biggest Autopsy Surprise They Ever Got

I’ve never considered being a medical examiner, but I do think the work that they do is both important and fascinating. Most of us probably feel like we have a pretty good idea of what their job looks like after watching so many crime scene shows on television, but do we really?

After reading through these 15 autopsy shockers, I bet you’re going to be surprised at least once!

15. It gets weird…and then weirder still.

Not a doctor, but a whole body scientific donation technician. I’m the person who dissects cadavers after they were donated.

We very commonly would get young cases, normally overdoses. Had a mid-thirties female, went to medical examiner prior to donation, but they only did an external evaluation.

I went to check her genitals to see if I could palpate a uterus, found a condom full of pills. Similar to most, the body became a crime scene and we couldn’t touch her.

When we finally were able to continue, they asked us to photograph the pills to send to the examiners office.

They were mostly Advil and Zyrtec, easily one of the weirdest things I’ve ever found.

14. Oh my goodness, this is a terrible moment.

Worked at an animal hospital. They did necropsies for zoos all the time. An alligator died, and they shipped it to the hospital, refrigerated etc to stop the decay. They took it out and put it up on the table. After doing all the paperwork, they started opening up the alligator. After the first cut, the alligator opened its eyes. Turns out it wasn’t dead, the zoo vet mistook an illness for death and the low temperature put it basically into a coma.

13. This is why I freak out when my parents give popcorn to my toddler.

Former homicide detective here. Suspicious death, 30-ish male found alone by cleaning staff in the back row of a sparsely attended sci-fi movie. Strange scratching wounds around/in mouth. Some petechiae in eyes and on cheeks, but no signs of strangulation. No obvious signs of chronic illness or disease. Presented as healthy, normal adult male. Found on his person was a wallet with normal contents, and a single cancelled movie ticket, indicating he went alone. Weird, spy movie shit going on here.

Autopsy: a large amount of popcorn compacted in his esophagus. Like a half cup. Dude was apparently excited by the movie, stuffing popcorn in his mouth, and choked. The scratch marks around/in his mouth were self inflicted, trying to dig out popcorn (verified via fingernail scrapings, his was only DNA present). Loud movie, he was in the back, no one saw or heard him choke.

I’ve never eaten popcorn again.

12. How on earth is this even possible.

I worked at a coroner’s office for a while and once we had a guy who we thought had died from an OD on meth. Well we started the autopsy and i went to cut his lungs out and blueberry muffin mix started coming out of them. I stuck my finger in his mouth and it was full of blueberry muffin mix. And it was in throat. Turns out he got just high enough to pass out while eating the muffin mix and he ended up choking to death.

11. What a loser.

I was an investigator for a state medical examiner for just over 2 years. Had a mom that had “drank herself to death” according to the husband after relapsing on Mother’s Day weekend. I just felt like something was off. Sent her for an autopsy. Had a ruptured liver where dude had essentially beat her till she internally bled to death.

Later, while out on bail, he stole a semi truck, crashed it in a pond, got out shooting at a deputy, and they killed him.. saved the tax payers a good chunk of money.

10. That is definitely bizarre.

I did the autopsy of both a robber and his victim. The robber shot the victim in the back when he tried to escape in a motorcycle, and the robber was shot by the police in the exact same situation.

What’s interesting is that they both died by exactly the same lesion. Both of them had their 4th lumbar vertebra shattered and their aorta (main artery of the body) sectioned at the same level. I thought of it like an extreme example of instant karma.

9. This is something I hope never to see in real life.

Med student almost graduated here. A couple years ago i attended the pathological anatomy course and during a class the professor showed us some autopsies. Despite the tremendous smell of 4/5 consecutive autopsies, one of them was carried out on a homeless patient that died in the ER probably due to heart failure. The body had massive ascites (fliud in the abdomen), so at first he had to evacuate it. Imagine him cutting the abdomen and the yellow rancid liquid started to come out like a fountain. One of my colleagues fainted.

Then the next step was to examine the abdominal organs. Imagine the face of every person in the room when it became clear that the patient had some form of inherited polycistic disease and the liver and the kidneys were full of cysts. The liver weighted more than 10kg (normal weight 2-3kg) and the kidneys almost 3 kg each (normally 150g each). The professor was really shocked at the beginning, but then he really enjoyed cutting through the cysts in order to get samples, they popped like airball spreading liquid all over the place. Second colleague fainted.

The other ones were pretty standard, but i think i will remember forever this one, in particular that liver on the scale. I even took a picture but i can’t find it anymore 🙁

P.s. I’m sorry for any mistakes but I’m not a native English speaker

8. Talk about rotten luck.

During my internship rotation a couple of years back, a 40 year old guy came in because he ‘suddenly collapsed’ while drinking with friends. He came in unresponsive, mouth bleeding, and not breathing, so we had to intubate him.

For some reason, the endotracheal tube (the stiff tube placed inside the trachea to help the patient breathe) won’t go in, but we managed to suction copious amounts of blood clots. After CPR (still with unsuccessful intubation so we had to bag him with a face mask), the patient was declared dead, and diagnosed with a ruptured abdominal aortic aneurysm.

During the autopsy, they found out that the guy was apparently shot by a gun from the top of the head (the entry wound was obscured by his hair, and was barely bleeding at all), and the bullet somehow went through the back of the guys throat and made a hole behind the base of the tongue, which the endotracheal tube kept slipping into.

7. Human beings are a tragedy.

I was a forensic tech for a state medical examiner’s office for about 2 years. I’ve assisted in about 1000 autopsies and have removed bodies from scenes from likely twice that. I told these stories in another AskReddit thread about people who clean up crime scenes, and I have a few takeaways:

  • Man who had a psychotic break and castrated himself and stuffed it all into this mouth before cutting his own throat.
  • Man who was sodomized to death with a broom, a baseball bat, and the tuning end of a guitar.
  • Man who decapitated himself by hanging himself with high tension cable and jumping off a bridge.
  • Woman overdosing whilst carrying an 8-month pregnancy.

No really any major revelations like, in terms of something wild unexpected or a medical finding that contradicts the police report.

Just seen enough shit in one lifetime for 100 people.

6. Well that’s just a sad story.

Six months after my aunt’s passing in a drunk driving incident, the coroner decided to ring up my mum and inform her that they completed their report on her passing, and deemed the likelihood of “suicidal intentions” which may have factored into said incident; I initially didn’t understand how coroners could deduce such a thing.

Until i remembered, self harm scars are a thing.

My mum had only just gotten to the acceptance stage of grief, and it put her firmly back to square one.

She’s fine now.

5. “The prettiest pink.”

During medical school I did a forensic pathology rotation during 4th year. Had an autopsy on a woman found in her burned out home. She was on home oxygen and the fire started in her bedroom. There were also liquor bottles around the home, so the thought was maybe she was drunk, smoking in bed, and caught herself on fire? She was badly charred up on the outside with no real distinguishing characteristics I could see. We opened her up and when we got to her lungs they were just the prettiest pink you could imagine. Just like in the textbooks. This means she wasn’t alive to breathe in the smoke and soot from the fire so she had died (spoiler: was murdered) before it was set. Ultimately I read in the paper some weeks later it was the boyfriend trying to get insurance money.

4. Imagine this happening when you’re all alone.

Training in the Medical Examiners office. Elderly woman found dead by herself in her home.

There was nothing suspicious so I was given the case.

Took out all the organs, dissected everything, completely unremarkable.

I cut through the larynx as the last step before I could clean up and finish the case and boom, giant piece of chicken lodged in her windpipe.

Died choking on dinner.

3. So was it the war or the car accident that did him in?

When my parents were in medical school they attended an autopsy of a patient who had died in a car accident

Autopsy revealed that apparently this guy had survived a chest shot in Vietnam years ago that the surgeons/medics left in rather than perform risky surgery, the accident had migrated the bullet to his heart and was ruled the cause of death

2. Something we could all learn how to do, I think.

As a student in the medical field, I had the opportunity to visit a cadaver lab.

I was very surprised to see how many people had died from choking.

Out of the twelve or so cadavers in the lab that day, at least 7 or 8 were from choking.

I went home and immediately looked up how to perform self Heimlich.

1. That’s not where you want to see your own face.

Forensic pathologist here. Two come to mind:

  • I had just moved back to my home state where family lives. Get a case with a man with a distinctive last name in the family tree. I put a text out to my mom to see if we were related, but before she texted back I pulled the sheet back and already knew; he looked like me. It was my great uncle.
  • Get a case where it’s a “house fire” death. On exam he’s got multiple, textbook stab & incised wounds. I spend the next 30 minutes getting gaslighted quizzed by PD about “Are you sure?” because they thought this was a straightforward house fire.

Un-fun fact: fires not an uncommon way for people to try to conceal a homicide.

I am shook, y’all. SHOOK.

Which one of these revelations made your jaw drop?

Tell us in the comments!