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Forensic medical examination of a corpse

  • External study of the corpse
  • Internal study of the corpse
  • Depending on the goals and objectives, there are two types of examination of a corpse - forensic and pathoanatomical.

    Pathologic examination is performed in the appropriate departments of hospitals by specialists in the field of pathological anatomy.

    A forensic examination (study) of a corpse is performed by a forensic expert (or expert doctor). In procedural terms, it is customary to distinguish forensic examination and forensic examination of a corpse.

    A forensic examination is carried out on the basis of a decision of the investigator or a court ruling, that is, when a criminal case has been initiated. A forensic medical examination of a corpse is carried out on the basis of the attitude of the bodies of inquiry, that is, an autopsy is carried out for the purpose of confirming or excluding violent death.

    The difference between the examination and the study of the corpse consists only in their procedural design, the goals, objectives and techniques of the autopsy are of the same type. The forensic examination of the corpse is drawn up in the form of an “ expert opinion ”, the study - the “ Act of forensic medical research of the corpse ”.


    Forensic examination (research) of a corpse has a number of features that distinguish it from the post-mortem examination of the corpse. Thus, the tasks of the forensic expert include a detailed diagnostic study of destructive phenomena (for example, to establish the prescription of death). He conducts a study of clothing and examination of physical evidence delivered with a corpse, identifies objects for laboratory examination. A forensic autopsy is performed at various times after death, sometimes very distant (months, years). The subject of a forensic study may be the remains or parts of a corpse, sometimes after a previous study, as well as the corpses of unknown persons. A forensic expert at the time of the study of the corpse does not always have preliminary information describing the circumstances of death, as well as data from medical documents.

    Objects for mandatory forensic examination are:
    1) the corpses of persons who died from any violent effects (mechanical damage, mechanical asphyxiation, poisoning, drowning , the action of high and low temperatures, electric shock, etc.), as well as in circumstances in which violent death can be suspected, from the kind and place of death (including in medical institutions);
    2) the corpses of persons who died in medical institutions, with an unidentified diagnosis of the disease, if there are any complaints of improper or unlawful treatment accepted by the investigating authorities and a decree issued to conduct a forensic medical examination;
    3) the corpses of persons brought to a hospital are already dead;
    4) the corpses of persons who died suddenly (regardless of the place of death), when the cause of death was not established by the doctor of the medical institution and the "Medical death certificate" was not issued;
    5) the corpses of persons whose identity is not established.

    The study of the corpse is performed in the forensic morgues or in the premises adapted for this purpose. An autopsy is usually performed no earlier than 12 hours after death. However, for scientific and practical purposes, it is allowed to perform an autopsy before, after the doctors ascertained the presence of biological death.


    The transportation of the corpse, as well as physical evidence to the forensic morgue, is provided by representatives of the inquiry or prosecutor's office, who must take measures to preserve these objects in their original condition. Simultaneously with the corpse, an order for the examination should be sent (or another accompanying document), as well as a copy of the report on the inspection of the corpse at the place of its detection. If the corpse came from a medical institution, the originals of medical documents must be submitted.

    Registration of corpses entering the morgue is made in a special journal. In the morgue there is a magazine for the registration of clothing, physical evidence and other items delivered with a corpse. Corpses entered the forensic morgue must be in conditions that ensure their safety and integrity.

    The study of the corpse should be carried out with sufficient natural light. The use of artificial lighting is highly undesirable, since this distorts the shades of colors, which can affect the quality of diagnoses and judgments. To ensure the completeness of the study of the corpse, it is desirable that it be carried out by an expert who participated in the examination of the corpse at the place of its detection. This allows you to compare the inspection data with the results of the autopsy. At a research of a corpse representatives of bodies of inquiry or a consequence should be present. Doctors who treated the patient before death, can be present only with the permission of the investigating authorities.

    Forensic examination of a corpse consists of familiarization with preliminary information about the circumstances of death, external and internal research, laboratory tests and execution of the relevant document.

    Preliminary information about the circumstances of the death can be obtained from the investigator's decision on the appointment of an examination, the protocol for examining a corpse at the place of detection, a medical history , an outpatient card and other medical documents delivered to the morgue with a corpse or requested by an expert. Important information can be obtained by interviewing the relatives of the deceased or other persons who observed the circumstances and conditions of death. If this provides information that is relevant to the investigation, they are subject to legal registration.

    In case of violent death, it is necessary to clarify the nature of the external factor that was in force, the position of the victim in this case, his subsequent actions. If you suspect that death has come from poisoning, you should clarify the information on the type and amount of the poisonous substance used, on drugs, food and beverages that the dead person consumed shortly before death, on signs of poisoning ( nausea , vomiting , convulsions, etc.) ).

    When sudden death is necessary to find out the diseases that were diagnosed, complaints before death, objective signs of the disease, etc.