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THE AUTOPSY. FORENSIC PATHOLOGY. MEDICAL EXAMINER or CORONER. Coroner- elected position, most not medical professionals, undertakers, politicians, required qualifications- US citizen, over 21 yo . Medical examiner- physicians, most not trained in forensic pathology. The Autopsy.

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The autopsy



Medical examiner or coroner


  • Coroner- elected position, most not medical professionals, undertakers, politicians, required qualifications- US citizen, over 21 yo.

  • Medical examiner- physicians, most not trained in forensic pathology

The autopsy1

The Autopsy

  • An autopsy is an examination of the body after death

  • Internal and external exams

  • Purpose is to document any disease or injury that may have contributed to the death

  • Overall purpose is to create an opinion regarding the cause and manner of death

When forensic pathology is applied

violent deaths





sudden and unexpected

child or infant deaths


persons under institutional care

drugs or alcohol

deaths in close proximity to surgery

suspicion of public health threat

When Forensic Pathology is Applied

The autopsy2

The Autopsy

  • USES:

    -establish COD, MOD


    -weapon used

    -find identity of deceased

    -determining the

    effect of trauma or



Manners of death

Manners of Death

  • Natural- dies of cancer

  • Homicide- gunshot wound

  • Suicide- gunshot wound

  • Accident- fallen off an icy ladder

  • Undetermined

Causes of death mechanism of death








Blunt Force




Traffic Fatalities

Causes of Death/Mechanism of Death

The autopsy3

The Autopsy

  • Average a couple hours

  • Performed in an M.E. or coroner’s office

  • Performed normally 8am-4pm, or 24hrs a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.

  • Autopsies may cost from several hundred to several thousand dollars depending on purpose and types of tests run.

External exam

External Exam

  • Evidence

  • Measurements

  • Photographs

  • Odor- cyanide (almond), alcohol

  • Wounds, bruises, needle marks, petechia

  • Tattoos

  • Rigidity, Lividity

Tod stages of decomposition

TOD- Stages of Decomposition

  • Rigor Mortis- stiffening of muscles and body parts in position at death

  • Due to loss of ATP in muscle cells

  • Begins 1-2 hours after death

  • Starts at top of body and proceeds downward

  • Complete within 8-12 hrs

  • Muscles will relax as break down occurs, 24-36hr

  • Environment affects rate

Tod stages of decomposition1

TOD- Stages of Decomposition

  • Livor Mortis- blood settling down towards areas closest to the ground

  • Determine position at death (death-12 h)

  • Red Blood Cells settle and break down in tissues (bruising), (1-2 hrs)

  • Fixed then death > 10 hrs

  • Not Fixed then death (skin turns white when pressure applied) < 10 hrs

Tod stages of decomposition2

TOD- Stages of Decomposition

  • Algor Mortis- body loses heat after death, ~ 1-1.5 F (.4 -.75 C)/hr until environmental temp. reached

  • Affected by environment, body fat, clothing

The autopsy

Ocular Fluid (vitreous humor)- after death blood cells in eye break open and release potassium, amt of K present can indicate TOD

Open eyes- eyes dry, cloudy film, 2-3 hrs. after death

Closed eyes- ~24 hrs


The autopsy

Stomach Contents- digestion of last meal

Full undigested meal : 2-4 hrs

Stomach empty, SI full: 4-6 hrs

Small Intestine empty- > 12 hrs


The autopsy


  • Insect Infestation- stage of life cycle of insects on DB is indicative of TOD

  • “The blowfly is the first “witness” to arrive at the crime scene”

The autopsy

The pathologist first examines the outside of the body. A great deal can be learned in this way. Many pathologists use scalpels with rulers marked on their blades.

The autopsy

The body is opened using a Y-shaped incision from shoulders to mid-chest and down to the pubic region. If the head is to be opened, the pathologist makes a second incision across the head, joining the bony prominences just below and behind the ears. When this is sewed back up, it will be concealed by the pillow on which the dead person's head rests.

The pathologist uses a scalpel for these incisions. There is almost no bleeding, since a dead body has no blood pressure except that produced by gravity.

The autopsy

The incisions are carried down tothe skull, the rib cage and breastbone, and the cavity which contains the organs of the abdomen. The scalp and the soft tissues in front of the chest are then reflected back. Again, the pathologist looks around for any abnormalities.

The autopsy

The pathologist weighs both lungs together, then each one separately. Afterwards, the lungs may get inflated with fixative

The rest of the team is continuing with the removal of the other organs. They have decided to take the urinary system as one piece, and the digestive system down to the small intestine as another single piece. This will require careful dissection

Autopsy videos

Autopsy Videos





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