Friday, 21 September 2007

Classical mistakes in forensic pathology

Public scrutiny of forensic pathology is frequently intensive, particularly where a 'miscarriage of justice' is perceived, and the case is 'taken on by the media' as a cause celebre. Dr Alan Moritz identified several 'mistakes' to avoid in forensic pathology, in his 'classic paper' of 1956;

  • not being aware of the objective of the medicolegal autopsy
  • performing an incomplete autopsy
  • permitting the body to be embalmed before performing a medicolegal autopsy
  • mistakes resulting from non-recognition or misinterpretation of postmortem changes
  • failure to make an adequate examination and description of external abnormalities
  • confusing the objective with the subjective sections of an autopsy protocol (report)
  • not examining the body at the scene of the crime
  • not making adequate photographs of the evidence
  • not exercising good judgment in the taking or handling of specimens for toxicologic examination
  • permitting the value of the protocol (report) to be jeopardised by minor errors
The recognition of these potential pitfalls are as valid today as they were 50 years ago, and should be learnt by all aspiring forensic practitioners!


Kajal lutchminarian said...

Just to echo the last statement of good judgement regarding specimens for toxicology- as well as other samples of tissues sent to the lab,care must be taken with this as it is crucial to our understanding of the underlying pathology,we cannot be dependant on many signs and symptoms elicitd in living patients which greatly aid other departments of medicine. just to reinforce how important it is to RECORD THE APPROPRIATE DATA on the lab forms.we do not have the luxury of going back ten times and repeating taking bloods and samples of forensic nature.also,as a student, i believe that mistakes can also be lessened by increasing overworked staff,hence more people for the tasks to be sieved through, and this can only come frm creating greater incentive, awareness and more involvement in this field should begin by destigmatisation, in simple ways like keeping our mortuarys clean and tidy as it is quite upsetting to hear colleagues snickering with comparisons to a slaughter house/butchery.secondly, media is highly influential,with programmes like CSI and current movies like pathology which has aspects which the youth can identify with.

Fernandez said...

I agree with kajal.She makes a good point,from a student perspective.It is always nice to see a young mind taking interest in an old art.As a professor of forensic pathology,I encourage more youth to take interest in a field where more staff would be greatly welcomed.