Class Notes (1,100,000)
CA (650,000)
UTM (30,000)
FSC239Y5 (400)
Joel Cahn (100)

Autopsy Autopsy

Forensic Science
Course Code
Joel Cahn

of 4
November 1, 2010
Medico-Legal Autopsy& Investigation of unnatural death
Definitions of Death
- No single definitions of death
- Religious/cultural differences in definition: - departure of the soul from the
human body
- Death is a process, not an event
Somatic Death
- The individual can no longer function as a unit of society
- Irreversibly unconscious and cannot communicate with environment
- Unaware of his own, or the worlds existence
Cellular Death
- Cessation of respiration and metabolism of body tissues
- Followed by autolysis and decay
- Brain death= legal death
Timing Death
- Ante-mortem (pre-morted) before death
- peri-mortem: at or around the time of death
- post-mortem: after death
- Post-mortem examination
Medico-Legal autopsy
- Discover some or all of the following facts:
- Identify the decedent
- Determine the cause of death
- Nature and number of injuries
- Time of Death
- Presence of poisons
- Presence of natural disease and its contribution to death
- Interpretation of injuries
- Interpretation of any other unnatural conditions (including surgical or
medical procedure)
deceased should be identified prior to autopsy
- Where crime or suspicion exists, pathologist should visit scene before the
body is removed
- Examination with clothing and without
- Photographed:
- At the scene
- At morgue with clothes
- At morgue without clothes
- Injuries/ abnormalities should be photographed close0up
- Acces must be given to police/forensic scientists before and during for
- external examination:
- Surface appearance of wounds and other features often essential for
reconstructing the circumstances surrounding death
- Record:
- Photos
- Sketches
- Description
- Measurements and relationship to fixed anatomical landmarks
Cause of Death
-Disease or injury that initiated the lethal chain of events that led to death
Mode/mechanism of death
- Biological/physiologic abnormality produced by the cause of death that is
incompatible with life
Manner of death
- Classification that relates to the circumstances under which the cause of
death occurred
- Natural: caused solely by disease/age, no trauma
- Accidental: involve trauma
- Homicidal: involves trauma
- Suicidal: involves trauma
- Undetermined
- International classification of diseases (ICD) published by the world health
organization (WHO)
- E-code: assigns number for unnatural deaths
- Encompass some aspects of cause, manner and mode
- E.g accidental poisoning by drugs, medicinal substances and biologicals
- Homicides and injury purposefully inflicted by other persons
Time of Death
- Eyes: Eyeballs soften due to lack of intraocular pressure and loss of corneal reflex
- Muscle reactivity: persists for several hours and can be measured by response to
electrical stimulus
- Emission of body fluids: gastric content, urine, feces, semen
Rigor Mortis
- Stiffness caused by chemical change in the muscles after death
- Onset and duration varies depending on: age of deceased, temperature of
death environment, other factors such as perimortem activity or
- Warm&Flaccid>warm&stiff>cold&stiff> Cold& flaccid
LIvor Mortis
- Post-mortem hypostasis
- Settling of blood components lead to color changes (also called lividity
- Can be used to reveal body position at time of death but caution must be used
secondary settling can occur
- Caution must be use not to confuse with evidence of strangulation or
Algor Mortis
- Cooling of the body according to Newtons Law
- Factors that affect rate of cooling:
- Mass of body
- Surface area/mass ratio
- Posture of body
- Amount of clothing
- Obesity/emaciation
- Edema
- Environmental temperature
- Winds/ drafts, rain/humidity
- Hypo/hyperthermia
- Putrefaction: moist degeneration leading to liquefaction of the soft tissues
- First visible in the abdomen
- Swelling due to gas buildup
- Superficial veins become outlined: marbling
- Mummification: desiccation of tissue, often partial, tissue is dry, leathery and
- Adipocere: chemical change of body fat usually takes place in wet conditions
- Waxy substance that preserves underlying tissue
- Changes due to water or buried remains: both will lengthen the amount of
time necessary for decomposition
- Different pattern of decomposition and post-mortem damage
- Experienced pathologist
- Knowledge of post-mortem changes
- Interpret effect of underlying medical conditions
- Importance of chronology
- No single indicator of time since death is very accurate