The first stage of decomposition “Pallor Mortis” translates to “paleness” [pallor] “of death” [mortis] and generally occurs 15-25 minutes after death. Postmortem paleness of the skin is usually seen more immediately in those who are anemic and/or have less melanin in their skin and therefore were more pale in life. Pallor Mortis is caused due to lack of capillary circulation within blood vessels which run throughout our bodies. The constant flow of blood through a living being gives the skin a good amount of its color and “lifelike” quality. During Pallor Mortis, blood stops its flow and begins to sink to lower parts of the body due to gravity. This pooling of blood becomes more evident in the fourth stage of decomposition, Livor Mortis. Unfortunately, Pallor Mortis is little to no aid in determining time of death due to its sudden onset and is only able to indicate whether the death took place more or less than half an hour before discovery of the body. During the stage of pallor mortis, we also see a thin film appear over the cornea of the deceased if eyes are open. While this is not caused by lack of blood circulating throughout the body, it occurs within a few minutes of death. The paleness seen in pallor mortis can also be caused in life by shock, heart failure, a vitamin D deficiency brought on by lack of sunlight, vasoconstriction (narrowing of the blood vessels) and homeostasis, which occurs in extreme cold.
Check out the NEW BOOK by The Post-Mortem Post’s Head Writer ‘Horrible History: Mass Suicides’ AVAILABLE NOW on Amazon Kindle!
Find out what happens immediately before the Pallor Mortis in Everybody Poops: The Post-Mortem Edition and Demystifying the Process of Dying
View our full schedule for DECOMPOSITION WEEK
Follow us on Twitter @PostMortem_post