Lesson 21: Buy a dishwasher.

Those who have reviewed my list of 22 lessons have often stopped to comment on the title of this penultimate lesson. It raises questions in their minds. Why does a morgue need a dishwasher? And why write about a trivial item like this?

Perhaps it is helpful, for those who are interested in lofty themes, to consider an automatic dishwasher as a metaphor for something else—perhaps for something seemingly more important than clean instruments.

But they would be wrong.

Frankly, I do not believe there are many items more important than clean instruments, clean floors, clean cabinets, and a clean morgue. There is nothing worse than a neglected morgue. Blood and tissue on instruments, floors and cabinets should not remain for long after autopsy dissections are complete. They should not present a health hazard for those who work in or visit the office.

Those who have worked for me know how particular I am about the cleanliness of the environment we work in. Frequently, I make tours by myself through the morgue area looking for gunk on instruments, floors and cabinets. If I see autopsy aides or others sitting around and doing nothing when there is any amount of biological material on instruments, floors, or cabinets, I will ask them to clean.

Still, if I demand that kind of cleanliness, it is only fair and right that the office provides the kinds of time saving devices we enjoy at home, including an automatic dishwasher.

My chief investigator, Ron Brasfield, and I decided one day that it would make sense to buy a portable dishwasher for the morgue. I was not satisfied with the cleanliness of the instruments, and we felt an automatic dishwasher using a detergent with bleach would do a better job than washing instruments by hand.

We were right. A dishwasher in the morgue works just as well as your automatic dishwasher at home.

When we expanded our morgue space a couple of years later, we made provision for a built-in dishwasher. The dishwasher we purchased is the same type used in large restaurants. It works wonderfully well.

Besides knives, scissors and other instruments, the dishwasher can wash non-instrument items. We all used to wear special shoes in the morgue that we could easily clean and put on. After removing the linings, these shoes can be washed in the dishwasher. I do need to warn you: do not wash in the dishwasher the plastic dish that comes with the pediatric weight scale. It will warp in the heat.

I have never seen another morgue with a dishwasher. Hopefully, you and others will read this lesson and buy automatic dishwashers!