Cite this page: Tops TL. History / scene / circumstances & external examination . PathologyOutlines.com website. https://www.pathologyoutlines.com/topic/forensicsautopsyexternal.html. Accessed December 9th, 2022.
- Circumstances of death need to be reported by the Forensic pathologist (FP) based on information provided by law enforcement personnel who are familiar with the death scene
- Depending on the case, the FP can obtain crucial information at the death scene or by a phone call to law enforcement investigators
- Asking specific questions related to the case will help provide clues to Cause / Manner of Death (COD / MOD)
- Specific questions related to the decedent's past (medical history, recent surgeries, state of mental health, drug / alcohol abuse, etc.) may reduce the need to perform a complete autopsy when only toxicology analysis is required to determine COD / MOD
- Overall: state body weight, height, age, body temperature, rigor, and lividity
Head / neck
- Describe hair color, facial hair, eye color, oral cavity, ear canals, nose, lips, and teeth
- Describe chest, abdomen, back, anus, and genitalia
- Describe upper / lower limbs, and fingernails / toenails
- Describe tattoos, ID tags, medical / surgical intervention, etc...
- Describe any defects to support cause of death (COD)
- State anything to suggest evidence of cause of death, such as: gunshot wounds, blunt trauma, sharp force injury, illicit drug residue, anasarca, obesity, emaciation, sexual assault
Evidence of injury (examples)
- This section usually contains both external and internal descriptions of injury
Gunshot wounds (GSW)
- List each GSW trajectory separately, determine how many entry (penetrating) / exit (perforation) wounds, range of fire, soot / stippling, trajectory, recovery of projectile(s), state in proper order of anatomic landmarks injured by each GSW, hemorrhage, etc.
Blunt force injuries from motor vehicle accident (MVA)
- Trace evidence collected on body (e.g., paint chips or glass), pattern contusions / abrasions, fractures, lacerations, avulsions, hemorrhage, etc.
- Cuts, incisions, defense wounds, determine the knife's sharp verses blunt end in each skin wound, depth of wound, organs affected, hemorrhage, etc.
- Minor lesions that are attributed by the mechanism or cause of death