On April 23, 2017 | 0 Comments


Emergency Room dramas are popular on TV. Scenes often open with the emergency services rushing in a critical patient who could die if not rescusitated. Sometimes the victim has “flat-lined,” and so he is given a shock with defibrillator paddles. Miraculously, he wakes up.


In fact, we never rub defib paddles together. It’s time-wasting and dangerous. Instead we use conductive adhesive pads on the patient’s chest. Secondly, even more important, we never, ever, shock a “flat line,” which in medicine we call asystole. That’s like flogging a dead horse. We administer IV medications, but we only give countershocks for life-threatening heart irregularities like ventricular tachycardia and ventricular fibrillation, hence the term defibrillation.

A different scene from a Netflix show called RosewoodMorris Chestnut as Dr. Beaumont Rosewood stands over a dead woman on an autopsy table. Rosewood is wearing street clothes and a pair of blue nitrile gloves. He picks up a scalpel to begin his first incision. You might already have guessed what’s wrong with that scene. Right: we never do an autopsy in street clothes. See this photo of Wayne County deputy medical examiner Leigh Hlavaty, M.D wearing correct Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for an autopsy.


Some medical TV programs and movies, especially American ones, appear more preoccupied with how young and beautiful doctors and staff look. The real world isn’t like this, and I feel European and Scandinavian TV do a better job showing plain, average-looking people who are genuine and genuinely smart.

I don’t have much need for Code Blue situations in my detective novels, but forensic pathology is a different matter. It’s often crucial to the plot. All of my Inspector Darko Dawson books include at least one autopsy, and my novel Death By His Grace briefly describes the fascinating science of blood spatter—fascinating to me, anyway.

I once visited the LA County Medical Examiner’s Office to see the facilities and witness a few autopsies. When the chief ME discovered from I was also a novelist, I was immediately disinvited back. That was certainly one occasion when my double credentials didn’t work out the way I would have liked.


1. 7 CSI Fails