Forensic pathology is a special field of pathology dealing with the medicolegal investigation of death. Accordingly, it is concerned with certain kinds of cases such as sudden, unexplained, suspicious, unnatural, and violent deaths. A full autopsy is required in most cases to determine the cause and manner of death. A specialist who is specially trained to perform such autopsies is known as a forensic pathologist.
A forensic pathologist should have knowledge and training in the field of toxicology, trace evidence, serology, DNA technology, ballistics (wound ballistics). They also ensure that procedures regarding evidence collection are followed properly and coordinate their work with law enforcement operations.
Forensic pathologists spend most of their time in the lab to perform autopsies or examine and analyze the samples collected from a crime scene. After the analysis, they prepare a written report and also may testify to the findings in court. Clinical forensic pathologists examine living patients who might be victims of sexual assault or any type of abuse.
Roles and Responsibilities of Forensic Pathologist
The main role of the forensic pathologist is to determine the mechanism, manner, and cause of the death. The autopsy conducted provides insight into questions related to the death of the person, determines the identity of the deceased individual, and about the collection of trace evidence.
If wounds are present the pathologist will examine and document the wounds and injuries. Studying the wound can indicate the probable weapon used. They also collect and examine tissue specimens and observe them under a microscope and conduct the necessary test in case of toxicological specimens to identify the presence or absence of natural disease, microscopical findings, or to determine the chemical cause of accidental overdose or deliberate poisoning.
They also help during mass disasters. They work in close relation with the medical examiner and the investigator because when a body is discovered, the forensic pathologist might be able to determine the final activities or events of the victim and also shed light on activities during the interval between disappearance and discovery of the body by the analysis of findings such as stomach content and comparing it with verifiable known accounts of the decedent’s activities in the period immediately preceding the disappearance.
All the findings can help in the investigation process. The presence of a forensic pathologist at the crime scene during an investigation can help him gather history about how the death might have happened and also look into the external surroundings.
Apart from the forensic findings, if during the examination, any genetic disease is found and which can be a risk to the next of kin then notifying the family will be a great service to the living.
A forensic pathologist is in no way expected to give biased results and state his opinion. He can only draw a conclusion based on the findings and evidence and their analysis report. He is also answerable in the courtroom by providing the reasons for making the conclusion. They serve as expert witnesses in the court of law testifying in civil or criminal cases.
The forensic pathologist determines the mode, manner, and cause of death by studying the medical history, evaluating crime scene evidence including witness statements, performing an autopsy to uncover evidence of injury or disease, and collecting evidence and samples from the body for further analysis. The role of a forensic pathologist is very important in both civil as well as criminal cases.