The Forensic Pathologist examines deceased persons whose death falls under the Medical Examiner’s jurisdiction to determine the cause and manner of death and to gather evidence that may be used in court. The examination begins with review of the investigative information and available records followed by an examination of the deceased person. In some situations, when the person has been in the hospital for a period of time that allows adequate documentation of the injuries, a records only review will be performed by the forensic pathologist and the decedent will not be directly examined.
When an examination takes place, the forensic pathologist first examines the body as it is received at the office and takes note of the general appearance/condition of the person and makes diagrams/notations of the body and photodocuments the condition of the body. Evidence will be collected at this time if needed. Then medical therapies and clothing are removed and the body is re-examined and documented. Body fluids are obtained for testing as needed. For some deaths, the examination will consist of just an external viewing of the outside surfaces of the body. If an internal examination is warranted, the organs will be inspected and samples will be taken for additional testing as needed. The incisions made during a routine internal examination do not prevent a funeral viewing and will be covered by clothing at the funeral home.
Once the examination is complete, the forensic pathologist creates a report that includes the findings of their examination. A death certificate is generated and submitted to the health department for filing. If additional testing or investigation is needed, these actions will happen after the decedent has been released to the funeral home or crematory of the family’s choosing.