Thursday, May 19, 2016

Life After People Documentary Series

The History Channel has had some extremely successful, engaging shows throughout its tenure, even if many of them don’t deal exclusively in history, or have anything to do with the past at all. One of the most compelling of those shows goes in the exact opposite direction, as Life After People chronicles just what would happen in the future if people were to suddenly disappear.

As a well known and experienced forensic pathologist, Dr. Howard Oliver was given the opportunity to star in several episodes of the show to discuss his knowledge in forensics, death, autopsies, and more.

Make no mistake, the show is not about any specific extinction event – it seeks only to show just what would happen to the planet in the absence of the human race. Life After People did not start out as a series, instead debuting as a two-hour special in 2008 which gathered nearly 5.5 million viewers. The overwhelming viewership gave rise to the series, which lasted two seasons and offered countless glimpses of a world run exclusively by nature.

The show uses spectacular CGI visuals to give a detailed picture of what the planet would be like sans humans. The fallout is shown progressively, explaining what an area might look like in 50 years, 500 years, and so on. These visuals are the key element of the program, because we are all obviously aware that if people were to disappear, things would get a bit messy. But being able to show the destruction precisely was the hook that many found difficult to turn away from.

Each episode of the two-year, 20-episode series had a different focus, showing the unique decay of numerous locations. Landmarks were used extensively to demonstrate the destructive force of nature, as the Washington Monument, Golden Gate Bridge, Gateway Arch, Space Needle, and many more meet their ultimate demise.  

Animals are a large focus in Life After People, as they become the rulers of the natural world. The show explains that in a world without people, only the larger, more capable dogs will be able to survive, and will eventually merge with wolves to once again become predators. As for cats, they have a much better time of it, surviving due to their ability to climb and snare small prey.

Learning about the fate of different animal species and their new place in the natural world was necessary for context, but the real meat of the show, and what made it so popular, was showing exactly what would happen to familiar structures across the globe. For example, the Eiffel Tower eventually collapses due to corrosion, but does so in pieces, and it takes 1,000 years. It takes just 200 years for the Leaning Tower of Pisa to finally topple, with the Alamo joining it in pieces some 50 years later.

Dr. Howard Oliver made appearances in a handful of episodes including:
  • The Bodies Left Behind (2009)
  • The Invaders (2009)
  • Crypt of Civilization (2010)
  • Take Me to Your Leader (2010)
  • Wrath of God (2011)

To learn more about Life After People and other shows that Dr. Howard Oliver has starred on, check out his TV Appearances page:

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

The Basics of Autopsies

Autopsies have existed in some form or another for centuries. One of the first records of it being used for surgical purposes is found in the life of Galen (a disciple of Hippocrates). For a while, autopsies were associated with ancient brutality, but as religion and science converged, the practice gradually became an accepted procedure. It is now considered a legitimate means of medical examination by experts from a variety of fields.

With over 30 years of experience in Forensic Pathology, Dr. Howard Oliver has a strong knowledge of autopsies and how and why they are performed. Below, Dr. Howard Oliver describes the basics of autopsies and how they are used in his profession.

Dr. Howard Oliver - Autopsies

Why are they done?
Autopsies are medical examinations that are conducted in order to provide details about a death. Even if the cause of death seems obvious, the deceased could have had a condition nobody knew about while they were alive. Thus, autopsies shed significant light on the contributing factors of a person's demise; they offer information that helps determine what a person's health or state of mind might have been at the time of death.
How long do they last?
Provided there are no objections put forward, the autopsy is conducted as soon as possible. This is so that the family can plan the funeral and the person's body can be returned to them without unnecessary and painful delays. Additional tests by specialists take up to 10 weeks or, in some cases, even longer. The autopsy report cannot be completed until that process is finished.
Who is authorized to do an autopsy?
Autopsies are performed by doctors who have expertise in the examination of body tissues and fluids. Unless required by law (sudden death with suspicion of foul play, for example), no doctor can perform an autopsy without the permission of the deceased's family. A forensic pathologist is the primary doctor authorized to perform an autopsy.
Types of autopsies
Autopsies can be conducted for a variety of reasons, but there are generally three classifications:
Ø  Forensic: Typically entrusted to police surgeons, these autopsies are performed in cases of sudden, violent, or suspicious deaths that occur without medical assistance or during medical procedures (i.e., dying during surgery).
Ø  Clinical/Pathological: These autopsies are done to diagnose diseases for research purposes. They help explain the pathological processes that may have contributed to the person's death. Clinical autopsies are sometimes done to measure the quality of care in hospitals as well. They are done by a pathologist.
Ø  Anatomical/Academic: These are autopsies performed by anatomy students for practice (i.e., medical students). This is usually possible when a person has given permission for this prior to their death.
A means of closure

Although they can initially appear to be disrespectful to the dignity of the human body, it is important to remember that autopsies are not just medically useful; they can help people come to means with the death of someone they care about by providing them with clear reasons and explanations for why that person died. While autopsies are a difficult subject to broach with family members who have just lost a loved one, in the long run, the procedure is capable of providing peace and a significant amount of closure.

For more information about autopsies and the work of a forensic pathologist, connect with Dr. Howard Oliver on Social Career Builder: