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Introduction to Forensic Medicine
and Pathology
Paul M. Ng’walali, MD, PhD
At the end of the lecture should be able
1. Define what is forensic medicine/Pathology
2. Differentiate between forensic med &
forensic pathology
3. Define terms commonly used in forensic
4. Explain the significance of forensic practice in
our daily living
Forensic Medicine
Branch of medicine concerned with resolution
of legal issues by the application of scientific
medical knowledge
to the end that injustice shall not be done to
any member of the society
In investigation several forensic specialists
may work together
1. Forensic criminalist
2. Forensic Pathologist
3. Forensic Toxicologist
4. Forensic Odontologist
5. Forensic Anthropologist
6. Forensic Psychiatrist
Forensic Pathology
Practice of medicine produces evidence useful
in the public administration of justice, public health, and
public safety
How ?
the medical principles derived from the study of
diseases and injury
the scientific study of the effect of disease and injury
on the human body in the context of;
matters of public interest,
the untoward or adverse effects of the dynamic
interaction that occurs between persons,
the person and the environment
Forensic Pathology; a study of the patterns of social
behavior, anatomic injury, and death.
Cause of death
Disease, injury, or abnormality that alone/in combination is
resp for initiating the sequence of functional disturbances
whether brief or prolonged, that eventually ends in death
This is the underlying, proximate, or initiating cause of death
It may precede death immediately and be both the underlying
and immediate cause of death
It may produce other serious sequelae and complications
that may be the immediate cause of death,
In documentation of the cause of death:
The underlying cause takes precedence over the immediate
cause or any other complications;
Should be the answer to the question:
“What is the cause of death but for which death would not
have occurred?”
A contributing cause of death is any important disease
or condition
that was present at the time of death and that may
have contributed to death
but was not related to the immediate cause.
Manner of death
A classification of the way in which the cause of death came about
with special reference to;
social relationships and personal causation
whether by:
force of natural events
suicidal self-infliction
The usual classifications:
accident pending
Mechanisms of death
The process causes vital organs/systems to fail when a fatal disease,
injury, abnormality, or chemical insult occurs.
It is the functional or structural change that makes independent life no
longer possible after a lethal event has occurred.
Example: gunshot wound to the chest, may cause death by:
1. cardiac standstill
2. hemorrhagic shock
3. less frequently: infection and sepsis
It may be difficult/impossible to define the mechanism of death in
instances of multiple forms of trauma such as
beating, stabbing, and disposal of the body in water.
Multiple mechanisms also can be the result of a single event
such as in strangulation
Brain ischemia
Purpose of medico-legal investigation of death
1. Satisfy the needs of public health and safety and the
2. Ascertain medical facts relevant to the cause of death
3. Integrate the findings with the investigation facts in
order to establish the manner of death
4. Evaluate the mechanisms and times of injury and death,
and to collect medical and physical evidence
Recommended Reading Materials
1. Bernard Knight; Simpson’s Forensic Pathology
2. Narayan Reddy KS; The Essentials of Forensic Medicine
& Toxicology
3. Kerr DJA; Forensic Medicine
4. The internet searches