According to its website, the agency`s mission is to “provide the organs of the administration of justice and citizens in general, through the exercise of forensic expertise, with a highly qualified service in forensic and forensic matters, guaranteeing quality, reliability, timeliness, impartiality and dignified treatment of women and men.” Development also of scientific research, teaching and expansion in the fields of its competence.  Forensic activities in the country, dating back to the first half of the nineteenth century, when the School of Medicine was established, considered in their curriculum a theoretical course in forensic medicine, while from a practical point of view, doctors in the capital city were responsible for performing autopsies. at the morgue on Teatinos Street, next to the Santiago Public Prison. Since 30. The current headquarters in Santiago was located at Avenida La Paz No. 1012 and was inaugurated on October 1, 1926. The building was designed by architect Leonello Bottacci.  The impetus to found the SML came from Dr. Carlos Ybar de la Sierra, a doctor from the University of Chile, who installed in the country the vision of forensic medicine that had developed in Europe.  On the other hand, its vision is “to be, as an institution of the State, the main scientific and technical reference in medical, legal and medico-legal matters, with quality, effective, timely and impartial action.
Structured, organized and highly valued by the community, which contributes to a better administration of justice.  Until then, forensic pathology was a concept associated only with the morgue, the place where city doctors performed autopsies on people who died on public roads. Meanwhile, the position of coroner was theoretically teaching in universities.  He went out constantly every day, unlike before the coup, when excursions were limited to three or four times a day, recalls Sergio Cornejo, who was 13 at the time and accompanied his father to his work in the morgue. “The carabinieri warned against the removal of the corpses. As a child, he sometimes accompanied drivers to pick up the dead. In the empty plots, we found very decomposed corpses,” he said. What the Maians and other morgue officials remember clearly is the scene of the corpses being mutilated by bullets thrown on the pavement at the entrance to the institute, which they themselves had to lift and enter the premises. “The income was amazing.
The oval corridor surrounding the building was filled with corpses along both walls, from the entrance to the door to the floor. The room where the cooling chambers are located was also full, which were about 90 and not all worked. In each, two, three, four bodies were placed. There were also corpses on the floor in this room,” said Dr. José Luis Vásquez in an interview with ArchivosChile. It was the time of raids, of social and political “cleansing”, as confirmed by the high concentration of victims of human rights violations during that period, which is recorded in the Rettig report. Leaving behind tortured bodies destroyed by machine gun fire and even maimed before the eyes of the population seemed to be a tactic of the policy of terror and psychological domination imposed by the new regime. “They gave us several saints and different signs every night in case we were stopped by patrols.
For example, change the lighting of the cabin, colored bracelet or with a figure (turtle, skull, lizard), keywords, etc. He traveled 20 km. per hour, because there were military patrols all the time. Although the vehicles were identified as belonging to the service, they still shot at us “accidentally”. Then they forced us out and threw us to the ground,” the former driver told ArchivosChile. The investigation focused on the actions of four institutions in an almost bureaucratic cycle of death: the Legal Medical Service, the Civil Status and Identification Service, the General Cemetery of Santiago and the military prosecutors` offices. They all served to distort and hide the reality of the mass political executions that took place immediately after the military coup and until the end of 1973, a period during which the greatest number of victims of the 17-year military dictatorship were concentrated. “We had psychological pressure because of the responsibility for what we were facing,” he added. “There were relatives there, people who wanted to know if their loved ones were inside. Humanly, we did what we could.
The day before the carabinieri`s claim, 34 bodies entered the morgue. The organization is an international member of the Ibero-American Network of Institutions of Forensic Medicine and Forensics and participates in the Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction.  The Legal Medical Service (MLS) carries out psychiatric, psychological and social examinations of persons involved in criminal, civil or family cases when it is necessary to assess mental capacity. “They would enter his house like Peter, about five times a day. They did not come with any orders. An assistant told me that they were very arrogant with them. “Open the door! Or do they want to end up like them in the truck? ” they shouted at them,” Adelina Gaete, then secretary to SML director Dr. Alfredo Vargas Baeza, told ArchivosChile. The Legal Medical Service (better known by its acronym SML) is a Chilean public service under the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights that provides technical advice to courts and prosecutors by submitting expert opinions in therapy, psychiatry, clinical, sexology and laboratory that can be converted into evidence that collaborates with the administration of justice.  Since January 13, 2020, the service is headed by surgeon Gabriel Zamora Salinas.  Accustomed to receiving an average of less than 10 corpses per day (286 in total arrived in August 1973), the morgue managers now had to take care of as many as possible.
Between 11 and 30 September alone, 588 bodies arrived. Of these, 397 were shot dead. In a single day, on 20 September, 43 were admitted. The day before, 40. By the end of October, the death toll after the coup had risen to 1,177; Among them, 722 victims of gunfire. Civil servants were facing a possible health disaster. When a corpse entered, a “corpse receipt” was filled, indicating the day and time of arrival at the morgue and the clothing with which the deceased came. Each body was assigned a protocol number, which was written on a small piece of paper, which was then attached to the wrist with wire or string.
According to Heriberto Maians, one of the service`s couriers, several of its employees who were looking for bodies at night have gone “crazy”. “They didn`t count for anything, but they came back desperately.” Dr. Vásquez, who now works as a coroner at the SML, confirmed to ArchivosChile that the psychological consequences of the officers were later evident. “At the time, we didn`t even have the opportunity to talk about what was happening, there was no time. We were interested in resolving the situation quickly because we saw that we would have a very serious health situation. “You can barely walk the corridors,” Adelina Gaete, then secretary to the SML director, told AchivosChile. It was necessary to jump over the dead. There was always a terrible smell. It was horrible,” he said. There was so much work that officials at the general cemetery were even asked to help them collect bodies from the Mapocho River during their workday, recalls a cemetery official who said he refused to do the work.
ArchivosChile also interviewed current and former SML officials, including assistants, couriers, drivers, secretaries, administrative and medical staff. With these data and testimonies, it was possible to get a picture of what happened at the Santiago morgue during the first 11 weeks of the military dictatorship. Thus, we learn how he handled the sudden flood of corpses, including autopsies that determined the causes of death, the process of identifying and recognizing bodies and transferring them to the cemetery or other locations.