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Discuss the postmortem changes seen in somatic death in your own words. Why is it important to understand this process?As defined by the textbook, somatic death is the death of the entire person.  Somatic death is accompanied by postmortem changes such as the complete stoppage of circulatory and respiratory functioning and a change in skin color to a yellowish and pale coloration.  However, normal coloration may remain in the cheeks and lips if an indivdual’s death was caused by carbon monoxide poisoning, chloroform poisoning, or drowning.  The blood pressure within the body drops due to the stoppage of blood circulation, causing pupil dilation and changes to the individiual’s facial features.  Blood also starts to settle in lower tissues due to gravity causing a purple coloration in those areas.  This purple coloration is known as livor mortis.  A decline in body temperature also accompanies somatic death, and this decline in body temperature following death is known as algor mortis.  Hours after death, usually within 6 hours, carbohydrate breakdown and the reduction/loss of available ATP cause the body’s muscles to stay in a contracted state.  This contracted muscle state is known as rigor mortis and within 12 to 14 hours it affects the whole body.  The loss of available ATP prevents the relaxation of the body’s muscles as ATP must bind to myosin for it to unbind from actin.  This unbinding is what produces muscle relaxation, but with no ATP the myosin stays bound to actin leaving the muscles contracted.  Around 24 to 48 hours after death the body starts to putrefy or decay.  There are noticeable signs of this occurring, such as a greeenish skin coloration appearing, loosening of the skin from its underlying tissues, and bloating and liquefactive changes of the body.  The greenish skin coloration occurs due to hemoglobin derivatives entering the body’s tissues.  These hemoglobin derivatives include sulfhemoglobin, choleglobin, and others.  The release of bodily enzymes and lytic dissolution contributing to the body’s decay is known as postmortem autolysis.It is important to understand the postmortem changes in somatic death because it allows you to know that death has occurred.  The somatic changes are clearly defined indicators of death, which is very useful in a health care setting.  You would not want to accidentally state that someone is deceased even though they are still alive.  That would create a serious problem for both parties.  The somatic changes can also be useful in potentially determining the time frame in which death occurred, as certain changes do not occur until hours or days after death, such as rigor mortis and putrefaction/decay.

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