Introduction to Autopsy

Introduction to autopsy
Medico legal module
21st batch
June 2014
Dr Sanjaya Hulathduwa
MBBS, MD, DLM, DMJ Path(Lond)
DMJ Clin(Lond) , Dip. Crim MFFLM(UK)
Senior Lecturer
• An autopsy is also known as postmortem
• This is the final scientific investigation into a
person’s death.
• There are two major forms/types of an
autopsy, viz: a. Judicial/Forensic/Medicolegal
b. Pathological autopsy
Objectives of an autopsy
Identification of the deceased
Time since the death
Place of the death
Cause of death
Circumstance/manner of death
Interpretation of injuries
Any other opinions (period of survival, volitional
activities, mode of disposal, reconstruction of the
event, nature of the weapons involved, use of
alcohol and drugs etc.)
• Collection of trace evidence/samples
Medico legal autopsy
• A part of the medico legal investigation into a
• Conducted by a judicial medical officer or any
other designated medical officer
• Authority is given at an inquest
• No consent required from the relations
• Post Mortem Report (PMR) is given to the
inquirer (ISD/Magistrate)
• Cause of death is given after the autopsy
• Any body tissue/sample could be retained for
further investigations
• Mode of disposal of the body is decided by the
Requirements for a Medico legal
1. Judicial requirements
Written order from the ISD or Magistrate
2. Medical requirement
A government medical officer or a lecturer from
University Forensic Medicine Department. They
are considered as experts in the field of diseases
and injuries
(Section 45 Evidence Ordinance)
3.Physical requirements
Autopsy room with autopsy table, ventilation,
illumination and running water
Others accessories
Trained autopsy labourers /mortuary “cutters”
There are ten steps of an autopsy
1. History
2. Visit to the scene
3. Identification of the deceased
4. Preliminary procedures
5. Examination of clothing
6. General external examination
7. Specific external examination
8. Internal examination
9. Laboratory investigations
10. Documentation and reporting
• From - Relations
Eye witnesses
Police officer
Any other person
Past medical records
Visit to the scene
• If the body is still at the scene
• After the autopsy (retrospective scene visit)
Objectives of the scene visit-read
lecture on Scene of Crime
Identification of the deceased
• Close relations
• Friends
• Associates/work mates etc.
Usually by facial identification, in the
presence of the JMO, in good light,
while the body is on the autopsy table.
If not how?
Preliminary procedures
• Photography
Features for identification
Patterned injuries- Bite marks, tyre marks
Injury patterns- Child abuse, torture, bomb
• Radiology
Fire arms, explosives, child abuse, burnt
bodies, torture, putrefied bodies,
unidentified bodies
• Collection of trace materials
Sexual offences, fire arms, abortions,
deaths due to explosions, burns
Examination of clothing
• Depends on the type of the death.
• Unidentified bodies
• Sexual offences
• Fire arms
• Road traffic accidents
• Burnt bodies
• Explosion deaths
• Drowning…..etc. etc.
• Clothes for identification
• Injuries found on clothes
cuts, tears, penetrations
• Trace materials
blood, paint, vomitus, semen, oil, glass
particles, firearm residues, stains…..
• Any other
Suicide note
General external examination
• Height, weight, built, nourishment, hair, eyes,
complexion, post-mortem changes….
• Scars, marks, tattoos and other identifying
• Evidence of natural diseases
• Natural openings
• And many more…………………………
Specific external examination
• Depend on the type of autopsy and its
• Unidentified bodies
• Time since death
• Body moved after death
• Sexual offences
• Injuries
Internal examination
• Opening up of all body cavities
• Evisceration of all organs
• Dissection of all organs
• Head
• Neck
• Chest, abdomen
• Pelvis
• (may need to dissect other parts
such as spinal code and skeletal
Dissection techniques
Standard Dissection- “chin to pubis”
Special Neck Dissection
Facial dissection (as an extension of neck dissection)
Musculo-skeletal Dissection
Spinal Dissection
Pelvic Dissection
Other (Eye, Middle ear, Neuropathological)
laboratory investigations
• Depends on the autopsy
Dept. of Govt. Analyst
Blood, urine, bile, stomach contents,
Liver, kidney, brain, vitreous humor
Any affected organ or injury sites
microbiological, Diatom studies,
haematological/serological, enzyme
studies, genetic studies, ballistic,
entomological etc.
Samples for laboratory investigations contd.
• Histopathology
• In 10% Formol saline
• Toxicological samples – no presevatives
Documentation and reporting
• Findings
• Opinion (eg. Cause of Death )
• Other remarks
Compiled in the PMR-Post Mortem
Report (H 42 form)
Whom to send and how to retain?
What is an obscure autopsy and how
does it differ from a true negative
• Clinical autopsy (also termed Hospital autopsy
in the UK and Australia)
• Done to gather information about:
a disease/disease process
Pathology unidentified during life
Effectiveness of treatment
Pathological autopsy-requirements and procedure
Cause of death must be known and must be natural
Declaration of death must be filled before the autopsy
No suspicions/allegations about the circumstance
No inquest to the death
Written consent from the next of kin
Full or partial dissection could be employed
Only relevant body cavities opened
Special consent obtained to retain samples
Done by the hospital histo-pathologist in the presence
of clinical staff of the ward
• Approval from the head of the institution
• Usually not carried out in high risk cases (HIV,
Hep. B, other highly infectious/hazardous
• Do not delay (unethical)
• PM findings, samples taken must be
documented on the BHT
• Findings must be kept confidential

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