Coroner shows students the reality of death

Chief Deputy Coroner Eric Cantlin wants students to understand that death is final, and he has the pictures to prove it.

"You can talk to them all day and try to explain things, but they don't really get the grasp of it," Cantlin said. "But if you show them a picture, then they understand."

Cantlin spoke to Carson Middle School students Tuesday as part of the sixth annual Career Day. It was his fifth year to participate.

As part of his presentation, Cantlin passed around a series of photographs of bodies.

"These kids have a real false concept of life and death," he said.

Cantlin said that most students' exposure to death is through television and movies, which glamorize it with special effects. He said he wants them to see that death is a reality.

"There's a reality, a finality, about death," he said. "It's not something you joke about on the playground."

He said he hopes that the pictures will influence the choices the students make.

"I want to impact their decisions so they don't take these fatal actions," Cantlin said. "They're stupid mistakes."

Cantlin said he thinks middle school is a good time to talk to the students to prevent them from making those mistakes later on.

"You're hitting a window in that time frame," he said. "It's a time frame when you can impress them."

According to the 1999 Nevada Youth Risk Behavior Survey administered by the department of education, Cantlin has reason to be concerned.

One of the photographs that he passes around is of an alcohol-related death. The survey reported that 81 percent of the state's high school students drank alcohol. Seventeen percent responded that they drove after drinking alcohol within the last month.

He passes around another picture of a domestic violence victim.

Eleven percent of the students polled in the survey reported that they were physically hurt by a boyfriend or girlfriend in the last month. Eighteen percent carried a weapon in the past month.

Cantlin shows a picture of a suicide victim and another of a suicide and homicide victim.

The survey reported that 20 percent of Nevada's students said they had thought seriously about attempting suicide in the last year. Nine percent actually attempted suicide in the last year.

Fifty percent said they had used marijuana and 16 percent said they had used methamphetamines.

Cantlin said that many students sign up for his workshop because they want to see gory pictures, but their attitude changes after seeing the photographs.

"It's surprising that the ones that are more macho in the beginning are the ones that it really gets to," he said. "They don't want to leave at the end. They want to know why. It drives the nail home."


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