Writer's Guide to Government Information

Resources to inject real life detail into your fiction

Archive for the tag “death”

U. S. Strategic Bombing Survey: The Effects of the Atomic Bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, June 19, 1946.

U. S. Strategic Bombing Survey: The Effects of the Atomic Bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, June 19, 1946. President’s Secretary’s File, Truman Papers – http://www.trumanlibrary.org/whistlestop/study_collections/bomb/large/documents/index.php?documentdate=1946-06-19&documentid=65&studycollectionid=abomb&pagenumber=1

Representative questions that can be answered with this resource:

  • What are the effects of a nuclear attack?
  • What is a flash burn like?
  • How would an average US city be affected by a nuclear blast?


The purpose of the this 51 page report was to document the effects of atomic attack. The general outline of the report was:

  • Introduction
  • Effects of the Atomic Bombings
  • The attacks and damage
  • General Effects
  • Casualties (flash burns, other injuries and radiation disease)
  • How the Atomic Bomb Works
  • Signposts
  • The Danger
  • What We Can Do About It

Page 42 of this report has a table comparing the effects of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombs with the Tokyo firebombing on 3/9/1945 and against an average derived from 93 attacks on Japanese urban targets.
Section IV of this report, which begins on page 44 and concludes the survey speculates on possible nuclear damage to US cities and what defenses might exist to atomic attack.

Aside from documenting the effects of a nuclear attack on buildings and people, this document is useful in showing American attitudes of the time.

MedlinePlus Page on End of Life Issues

MedlinePlus Page on End of Life Issues – http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/endoflifeissues.html

Representative questions that can be answered with this resource:

  • What do doctors base their “you may live ____ months” estimates on?
  • If you are an older patient with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), how likely are you to live out a year?
  • What physically happens when someone dies?
  • How does Social Security treat burial funds?


This MedlinePlus Topic page is organized into the following areas:

  • Basics (overviews, latest news)
  • Learn More (coping, specific conditions, related issues)
  • Research (financial issues, clinical trials, research, journal articles)
  • Reference Shelf (Dictionaries/Glossaries, Directories, Organizations, Law and Policy)
  • For You (Children, Patient Handouts)

Useful looking resources include:

  • JAMA Patient Page: Decisions about End-of-Life Care (American Medical Association) – PDF
  • Doctor, How Long Have I Got? (InteliHealth, Harvard Medical School)
  • End of Life Choices – Feeding Tubes and Ventilators (Family Caregiver Alliance)
  • What Happens When Someone Dies? (National Institute on Aging)
  • Culturally Diverse Communities and End-of-Life Care (American Psychological Association) – PDF

Arkansas manual of death certificate procedures

Arkansas manual of death certificate procedures – http://www.healthy.arkansas.gov/programsServices/certificatesVitalRecords/Documents/Death%20Records/reporting_cause_of_death_manual.doc (Site currently down as of 9/11/17)

Representative questions that can be answered with this resource:

  • How long does a doctor have in Arkansas to complete a death certificate?
  • What medical information should be excluded from a death certificate?
  • What’s the difference between immediate and underlying causes of death?
  • Why is organ failure not an acceptable cause of death in Arkansas?
  • What special information ought to be entered on a death certificate if the deceased was female?


This 29 page guide offers information on filling out a death certificate in Arkansas. It is notable for having a section called “Information for worried certifiers” which says the only reason to worry is if you’re being asked to sign a blank death certificate. Covers the use of qualifiers like “probably, likely, etc”

District of Columbia Mortuary Unit Standard Operating Procedures

District of Columbia Mortuary Unit Standard Operating Procedures – http://ocme.dc.gov/sites/default/files/dc/sites/ocme/publication/attachments/Mortuary%20Operations%20Manual%2010.pdf

Representative questions that can be answered with this resource:

  • What are some representative duties of an autopsy assistant?
  • What are some representative protocols for body bags?
  • Under what circumstances would a body be x-rayed?
  • What’s the sequence of events in an autopsy?
  • How are samples processed for DNA studies?


This 31 page guide mostly focuses on autopsy and lab testing. The last two sections, Safety and Mortuary Security may be helpful to stories with scenes in the autopsy lab. The Safety section includes information on closing the lab for the day.

[Armed Forces] Autopsy Manual (1981)

[Armed Forces] Autopsy Manual (1981) [Army – 8-300, Navy – NAVMED P-5065, Air Force AFM 160-19] – http://www.med.navy.mil/directives/Pub/5065.pdf

Representative questions that can be answered with this resource:

  • What does a chain of custody sheet look like?
  • What’s the distinction between “cause of death” and “manner of death?”
  • What’s the proper way to dissect a heart?
  • How should one remove a brain for examination?
  • What sort of supplies should you expect to find in an autopsy room?


This is an all-service manual for autopsy procedures. This 130 page guide is broken up into these seven chapters plus appendices

  • Introduction
  • Technique of the autopsy (including organ removal)
  • Pediatric autopsies with special reference to infants and fetuses
  • Aircraft accident autopsies
  • Special procedures (including photography and the handling radioactive cadavers and specimens)
  • Objectives of the medicolegal autopsy
  • Selection and preservation of tissues for further study and museum purposes
  • Appendix A – References
  • Appendix B – Equipment and supplies
  • Appendix C – Tables of average weights and measurements

Death Certificate Education (Arizona)

Death Certificate Education (Arizona) – http://www.azbn.gov/DeathCertificates.aspx

Representative questions that can be answered with this resource:

  • Who is allowed to complete the “cause of death” box on a death certificate?
  • What should one do when they are unsure of the cause of death?
  • Where can I find some case histories with filled out death certificates?
  • When must a death on the operating table be reported in Arizona?
  • What procedures are followed in Arizona in cases of fetal death?


This is a continuing education module for nurse practitioners. It links to the following resources, among others:

  • Physicians’ Handbook on Medical Certification of Death (PDF) – From the National Center for Health Statistics, (PHS) 87-1108. 36 pp. (Reprinted 2003)
  • Instructions for Completing the Cause-of-Death Section of the Death Certificate (PDF)
  • Completing the Cause of Death Section of the Arizona Death Certificate (PDF)
  • Reporting Surgical Deaths (PDF)
  • Fetal Death Processing: Part I, II, IV & Fetal Fields to Remember (PDF’s)
  • Possible Solutions to Common Problems in Death Certification
  • Tutorial from the National Association of Medical Examiners (NAME)

Story Idea:

If you’re looking for plausible end of life scenarios, check out the 13 “case studies” in Physicians’ Handbook on Medical Certification of Death. They are about a paragraph long and cover the period from hospitalization through death.

NOTE: Death Certificate procedures may vary by state. 

MedlinePlus Poisoning

MedlinePlus Poisoning – http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/poisoning.html

Representative questions that can be answered with this resource:

  • Where can I find a medical toxicologist?
  • What does mercury do to the brain and nervous system?
  • What are some natural ways you can be exposed to arsenic?
  • What information should you have in hand before calling the poison center?
  • What are the most common poisons resulting in death or hospitalization in the United States?


This MedlinePlus topic page offers information on types of poisonings and poison first aid. Some of the poisons covered here include

  • Ammonia
  • Arsenic
  • Black nightshade
  • Bug spray
  • Caladium plant
  • Copper
  • Detergent
  • Dieffenbachia
  • Lead
  • Mercury


Post Navigation