A man in his thirties was found dead in a Red Cross collection bin in Kópavogur on Monday. Vísir reports that authorities believe the death was accidental, most likely a result of the deceased getting his hand stuck when he was trying to reach into the container.
The man was found around 8:00 in the morning after police were notified by a passerby. It is not known how long he had been stuck in the container.
“There’s nothing to say that this was anything other than an accident,” said Detective Chief Superintendent Karl Steinar Valsson, however, the final results of the man’s autopsy were not available at the time of writing. Karl Steinar said these could be delayed due to the unusually high number of post mortems that the medical examiner, Pétur Guðmann Guðmannsson, has had to conduct of late. For instance, just last Friday, said Karl Steinar, Pétur Guðmann had to conduct an autopsy on another man in his thirties died in an RV fire with his three dogs.
Pétur Guðmann is the only medical examiner in Iceland and conducts all the county’s autopsies.
Unusually high number of autopsies this year
As point of unfortunate fact, there has been an unusually high number of autopsies conducted in Iceland this year. So many, that earlier this month, another medical examiner—Snjólag Níelsdóttir, who lives and works in Denmark—had to be hired on a temporary, part-time basis to assist Pétur Guðmann at the National University Hospital four days a month. As many as 200 autopsies have been performed already in 2020, which is the same number as were performed during the whole of 2019. Pétur Guðmann says this is particularly unusual, as the number of annual autopsies in Iceland has remained basically unchanged for years.
Pétur Guðmann says that authorities have yet to fully analyze whether there have actually been more deaths of a violent or sudden nature this year or whether the increase in autopsies has more to do with police or doctors at the scene of death deciding more often that the cause of death calls for further investigation. Generally speaking, autopsies are performed at the request of police, most often in connection with suicides or unexplained deaths—those that occur suddenly, whether that be in the case of a cerebral haemorrhage, an accident, or an incident of violence. The medical examiner also performs examinations on the living, usually in connection with incidents of domestic violence. The medical examiner usually conducts around fifty such examinations each year.
Pétur Guðmann thinks it could well be possible that COVID-19 has had an effect on how much authorities depend on autopsies. A post mortem examination could, for instance, determine whether someone died from complications related to COVID-19. “Society is in a much different place in recent months,” said Pétur Guðmann, “and maybe this has had an effect on people’s threshold for requesting an examination.”