Wednesday, July 10, 2024

"Whitney Houston was drowned": Forensic pathologist Prof. Michael Tsokos on prominent deaths

EXPRESS "Whitney Houston was drowned": Forensic pathologist Prof. Michael Tsokos on prominent deaths Story by Horst Stellmacher (sm) • 12 hours • 6 minutes reading time An incredible number of corpses seen, cut open and examined. 26 books published, all of which became bestsellers. Popular guest on TV talk shows. Sold-out appearances in large halls: Prof. Dr. Michael Tsokos (57), the rock star among forensic pathologists. He is currently back in the book charts with the thriller "The 1st Patient" (written with Florian Schwiecker, Knaur TB, 12.99 euros). Here his team of investigators has to deal with artificial intelligence in medicine. He spoke about all this and much more in a big interview with Forensic pathologist Michael Tsokos: Thriller about artificial intelligence The new case for criminal defense attorney Rocco Eberhardt and forensic pathologist Justus Jarmer is "The 1st Patient." What is he the first of? Prof. Dr. Michael Tsokos: He is the first person to die during an operation in which AI, i.e. artificial intelligence, was used to help. The doctor who arranged it is being charged. The question is whether she is the right person to be in the dock, or whether AI should actually be there. Sounds like a thing of the future... Michael Tsokos: It's a bit exaggerated, but it's conceivable. The discussion will certainly gain momentum if a patient actually dies during such operations. And that is foreseeable. We're catching you just before the summer break of your big lecture tour. Happy with how it went? Michael Tsokos: Very much. Sold-out halls, an amazing audience. You can hear a pin drop in the exciting cases. Afterwards I often had to sign my books for up to three hours. That's really tough when it continues the next morning because I'm working on it until well after midnight. The rock star among forensic pathologists. Does it make you happy when you're called that? Michael Tsokos: Happy is the wrong word - but it gives me great joy. It's great feedback. It's better than a place on the bestseller lists, which is where my books always end up. It shows that I'm giving people something that fascinates them and distracts them from their everyday lives. As unusual as it is, because my profession is death. What are the important requirements for the job? Michael Tsokos: You have to know that some corpses hardly look like people anymore and that the decomposition can be very advanced, especially in high temperatures in summer. The smell isn't very pleasant either. But you also have to be aware that you're lying in front of the empty shell of a person who once meant a lot, maybe everything, to others. And the thought always makes me humble. Michael Tsokos: I dug up a murder victim with my own hands Dissected an incredible number of corpses, saw over 200,000 dead people. Did that change your view of death? Michael Tsokos: Not your view of death, but I gained a different view of life. I have known for a long time how precious it is, how quickly it can be over. I also learned that you should never leave the house when you are arguing. If one of the two dies, the one who is left behind will blame themselves for the rest of their lives for not having parted on good terms. What was the most bizarre case of your career? Michael Tsokos: Two corpses, a man and a woman, in identical black velvet robes, hanging from a scaffold that was probably homemade. Both skulls were skeletonized, their faces had flowed down and hung from them like a beard. I discussed this with some entomologists, i.e. insect researchers, and we still can't explain exactly what happened. This case will play a major role in my new book "Mit kalten Kalkül" (With Cold Calculation), which will be published in September. And your most gruesome case? Michael Tsokos: When I examined the victims of the child murderer Silvio Schulz in 2015. He had created his own cemetery in his allotment and I dug up a victim with my own hands at a depth of about half a meter. I then went to court as an expert witness, with the mothers of the murdered children sitting behind me. He himself didn't say a word. That was very depressing. Prof. Boerne in the "Tatort" from Münster? Dr. Roth from the Cologne "Tatort"? Do you have a favorite forensic pathologist on TV? Michael Tsokos: I'm not a fan of "Tatort" or "CSI", and I'm not a fan of any forensic pathologists on TV at all. The two of them do a good job as actors, but it has nothing to do with real life. If you like it... It's not my thing anyway, because it's just slapstick and forensic medicine is portrayed completely incorrectly. What other mystery would you like to have solved? Michael Tsokos: That of Nirvana singer Kurt Cobain, who was found dead with a gunshot wound to the head. It is said that it was suicide. But he had so much heroin in his blood that he could not have shot himself. The drug had rendered him incapable of acting, he was no longer capable of anything in that state. I would like to form my own opinion, but the documents are in the Seattle police's poison cabinet. I suspect they know exactly why... You also do not believe that pop singer Whitney Houston died of natural causes. What makes you sure? Michael Tsokos: I am convinced that she was drowned. That is what many people say - including some investigators in LA who are much closer to the case than I am and who I have spoken to personally in LA. Whitney Houston was found lifeless in a bathtub, face down, her breathing holes under water. But no forensic pathologist has ever seen a body found lying on its stomach in a bathtub. That doesn't happen. I have already dissected several hundred bathtub corpses, all of which were lying on their backs in the bathtub. On February 11, 2012, Whitney Houston died; the singer with the voice of the century was found dead in the bathtub. After the unexpected death of your parents last year, you announced that you wanted to do less. Did that happen? Michael Tsokos: I'm not doing less, but I'm only doing things that give me more fun and joy. For example, I said goodbye to my podcast "Die Zeichen des Todes" (The Signs of Death), even though I'd already had over 30 million views. I also ended the series "Obduktion - Echte Fälle mit Tsokos und Liefers" (Obduction - Real Cases with Tsokos and Liefers) on RTLplus. Somehow the format had worn out for me, it no longer felt good. Unfortunately, the producers and the broadcaster were not open to new things. And I left the Charité too. This departure surprised many. What was the reason? Michael Tsokos: What I was doing there was no longer the university medicine that I was once passionate about. I became a university lecturer to teach students something. When I started at the Charité 17 years ago, I had 13 lectures of 90 minutes each per semester, but then a few years ago everything shrank to a single online lecture. That's no longer teaching, it's just a joke with no learning effect. Nowadays, transgender medicine is given far too much space and subjects like forensic medicine are falling by the wayside. Can you also imagine a life without corpses? Michael Tsokos: Yes, of course. I enjoy what I'm doing now, but at some point it will be over. I don't want to be doing the same thing when I'm 70 as I am now. Then there will be no more public lectures in front of thousands of people and the writing will be over too. In three years at the latest, I'll be done with everything professional. I've seen so many corpses, but Prof. Tsokos is still afraid of death Have you managed to reduce some people's fear of death through your work? Michael Tsokos: Definitely! I think..., no, I know that I'm doing important educational work on my Instagram channel @dr.tsokos. I just met a young man who told me that he could understand the death of a parent better since he started following me on Instagram. Death no longer has the same horror for him. Are you less afraid of death now? Michael Tsokos: No, of course not, because I see every day how sudden, brutal and merciless death can come upon you. After all these experiences - how would you never want to die yourself? Michael Tsokos: From cancer! It's a terrible idea to be eaten up by it inside. Do you live a healthy life yourself? Michael Tsokos: Let's put it this way: I don't go overboard. I don't smoke, apart from a thick Cuban cigar now and then, and I drink alcohol in moderation, which means that I might not drink a drop for half a year, but I won't turn down a good bottle of red wine at an Italian restaurant... This is Michael Tsokos, the "rock star" among forensic scientists Michael Tsokos (born January 23, 1967 in Kiel). Headed the Institute of Forensic Medicine at the Berlin Charité from 2007 to 2023, currently head of the State Institute for Forensic and Social Medicine in Berlin-Moabit. Attended a high school near Kiel (A-level average of 3.0). After his time in the German army, he received a place to study medicine via the medical exam (second best in Germany). He works as an expert at home and abroad (e.g. for the BKA in identifying victims of terrorist attacks and disasters). His Instagram channel @dr.tsokos has more than 600,000 followers.