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Warren Commission Hearings: Vol. VI - Page 43« Previous | Next »

(Testimony of Dr. Charles Rufus Baxter)

Mr. Specter.
But relating the situation as I hypothesized it for you?
Dr. BAXTER. Then it is perfectly understandable that this wound of exit was not of any greater magnitude than it was.
Mr. SPECTER. Dr. Baxter, is there a channel through which the bullet could have passed in the general direction which I have described to you where there would be very few tissues and virtually no tissues of great density?
Dr. BAXTER. Yes; passing through the fascial plane which you have described, it could well not have these things happen to it, so that it would pass directly through--almost as if passing through a sheet of paper and the wound of exit would be no larger than the wound we saw.
Mr. SPECTER. What would the situation there be as to the shock wave which you have heretofore described?
Dr. BAXTER. There would be a large amount of tissue damage which is not ordinarily seen immediately after a bullet has passed through. This is damage that is recognized several days later.
Mr. Specter.
What causes the shock waves there, Doctor?

Dr. BAXTER. This is just the velocity imparting pressure to surrounding tissues which damages them. It does not show, however, in the early course after a missile has passed through.
Mr. Specter.
Well, would the shock waves have any effect upon the size, and
nature of the hole of exit?
Mr. Specter.
And if the bullet passed through the fascial plane without striking tissues of great density, would it have a tendency to tumble at all?
Dr. BAXTER No, it would not.

Mr. SPECTER What has your experience been, if any, Doctor, with gunshot wounds?
Dr. BAXTER For the past 6 years--we admit and treat, I would estimate, around 500 gunshot wounds per year-- thereabouts.
Mr. Specter.
Have you ever had any formal training in gunshot wounds?

Dr. BAXTER Only that I received in the Army, with demonstration of various velocities and that type missile wounds.
Mr. SPECTER. Where was President Kennedy lying when you first saw him, Dr. Baxter?
Dr. BAXTER. On the cart, on the emergency cart in trauma room 1.
Mr. Specter.
Was he ever taken off of that cart from the time you first saw him until the time he was pronounced dead?
Mr. Specter.
Was he ever turned over?

Mr. SPECTER Would your examination have been conducted in any different way had this particular victim not been the President of the United States?
Dr. BAXTER. I think--yes--in that we would have, particularly, postmortem examined the body much more carefully than we did. We would certainly have undressed him completely and determined all of the direction of the wounds
at the time. This did not seem feasible under the circumstances.
Mr. Specter.
Why was it not feasible under the circumstances?

Dr. BAXTER Mrs. Kennedy was in the room, there was a large number of people in the room by that time Secret Service Agents, the priests and so on. As soon as the President was pronounced dead, the Secret Service more or less--well, requested that we clear the room and leave them with the President's body, which was done. Everything that the Secret Service wished was carried out.
Mr. Specter.
What was that?
Dr. BAXTER. Everything that the Secret Service asked us to do, we did, as rapidly as possible and this was one of their requests.
In addition, I must say that the emotional condition of all of us at that time was such that probably we would not--we didn't feel that we should do any more, since we were certain that autopsy would take care of all that we were going to miss.
Mr. SPECTER. Did the emotional situation have any effect in your professional opinion on the quality of the medical care which was rendered to the President?
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