- Unnatural Causes


by Richard Shepard

(December, 2019)

UNNATURAL CAUSES, by the English forensic pathologist Richard Shepherd (translated into Swedish as "Onaturlig död. Liv och död - en rättspatologs memoarer").

This is an affectionate and tender autobiographical book, encompassing many internationally notable cases that span the entirety of the author's professional life.

Yesterday, on Christmas Eve, whilst enjoying a well-deserved break amidst the traditional festivities, I engaged in a conversation with my close and esteemed friend, Prof PW. Post-glühwein, we endeavoured to summarise the international developments in our field and discussed the concept of "psychological autopsy" - IAC as a nascent concept in Sweden, which, I believe, also encapsulates the essence of the recently read Shepherd book.

Forensic Medicine Science extends beyond mere postmortems, autopsies, pathology, and microscopy. It encompasses much more, maintaining legal credibility despite personal limitations, amidst an often impenetrable fog of investigative errors, inadequacies, and uncertain documentation from crime scenes. It involves understanding the context of processes, such as accessing medical, psychiatric, and legal journals, documents, notes, letters, diaries, or anything that can shed more light on a case. In court, amidst all this uncertainty, it requires providing judicial assessments "beyond reasonable doubt" and conclusions regarding the cause of death.

Amidst this complexity, there is the need for respectful and dignified interactions with grieving relatives. Simultaneously, one must guard against losing one's own sanity, akin to a cumulative PTSD, accumulated over decades of challenging experiences and acute stress, as Richard Shepherd describes in the final chapters of his book.

This is a personal and truly astonishing book!