The Gitmo "Suicides": The Strange Autopsies

I haven't been posting on this potentially game-changing story because the details are complex and the information overload enormous and I want to make sure I get every iota right. Stay tuned for more in the coming days. But Scott Horton's latest piece zeroes in on a very specific detail: the weird autopsies. Horton claimed that the families of the dead prisoners requested the missing necks and heart and kidneys of the deceased for a second autopsy. Rowan Scarborough at Human Events, contacted the military to debunk the story. He wrote:

I am told authoritatively that the families have not requested the neck organs.

Horton has the actual letter requesting the organs (see after the jump). So either it got lost in the mail or this is another demonstrable untruth from the government. Now Horton has asked one of the most respected autopsy pathologists inn the country to review the procedures of the autopsies as performed at Gitmo. Read the whole disturbing thing. It seems extremely clear that they violated standards and procedures that are routine for both civilian and military autopsies. For example, organs removed from bodies are always returned to the next of kin for secondary autopsies if requested. That didn't happen. From the pathologist, Dr Michael Baden:

It is not appropriate to be unresponsive to the pathologists conducting the second autopsy. If the body parts that were removed have been properly preserved, they can still be examined years later to assist in independently establishing how the death occurred.

Then this jumped out at me when I first read it. In the original autopsy, it was found that the hyoid bone of one of the deceased had been broken. The military claims this occurred accidentally during the removal of the neck for examination. It had nothing to do with what they claim were hangings. Here's what the pathologist said of that finding:

A fracture of the hyoid bone occurs more commonly in homicidal manual strangulation than in suicidal hanging. A pathologist performing the second autopsy should be able to examine the hyoid bone and larynx to independently determine if the fracture happened while the decedent was alive or inadvertently after death during autopsy removal of the larynx.

My italics. But the second autopsy was denied this option by the US military. Then the weird detail that also struck me before: why on earth did the deceased stuff rags down their throats if they wanted to commit suicide by hanging? The military's explanation was that a rag was placed over the mouth to muffle any sound or cry they might utter when hanging and that they were then "inhaled as a natural reaction to death by asphyxiation.” No, I'm not making that up. But I'm not an expert so the pathologist's analysis should be deferred to:

I am not aware of any other case in which suicide was accomplished in this way, at least not with a gag in his mouth covered by a surgical mask.

I have a feeling this story is not over.

The letter asking for the organs of the deceased is below: