This typographical error found in an autopsy report is one of my favorites. I discovered this gem early in my career with the medical examiner. I was a transcriptionist in charge of correcting errors in the newest employee’s transcriptions. (The job of a transcriptionist is to listen to the dictations of doctors reports and type them.) One day while correcting reports I came across a phrase that stumped me for several minutes. In fact, I had to listen to the doctor’s dictation several times in order to make sense of the context.
The report typed by the young transcriptionist read, “The decedent had an agreeable beast on the abdomen.” Obviously not what the doctor had intended to report.
Upon listening to the recording I found the statement located in the external exam portion of the report before the autopsy was described. The doctor described marbling and discoloration of the skin which is associated with decomposition of a corpse. My realization of what the doctor had said came when I heard a similar sounding statement later on saying that there was a mild degree of decomposition of the body. It was the use of the descriptor “mild” that helped me delineate the word degree from agree which made the earlier statement make sense. I pressed rewind and listened again to the original phrase. The doctor did not say that the decedent had an agreeable beast on the abdomen. The doctor in fact said, “The decedent has a degree of obese distention of the abdomen.” I hope you enjoy Max Art’s interpretation of this fun typo.