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“The performance of a competent autopsy is mandatory whenever a death, whether resultant from injury, disease, or a combination of both, contains some element of actual or potential forensic dispute… The key word in the forgoing thesis is competent, i.e., complete, professionally performed, and accurately observed. A sloppily done, incomplete autopsy is worse than none because it leads all too frequently to erroneous conclusions. Such conclusions, based as they are on the presumably reliable and rational fact-finding procedure of the postmortem examination, are notoriously difficult to overcome or eradicate. The tragic consequence of a poorly performed, partial or superficial autopsy is an unjust or unrealistic verdict, a flaw in what should be the seamless garment of Justice”.

-- Lester Adelson, MD

Adelson L. Symposium on autopsy and the law. The anatomy of justice. Bull N Y Acad Med1971 Jul;47(7):745-57
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New frontiers

Dr. Moritz identified the classic mistakes in forensic pathology in 1956… are they still being made in 2023?


Mistake of not being aware of the medicolegal autopsy.


Mistake of performing an incomplete autopsy.


Mistake of permitting the body to be embalmed before performing a medicolegal autopsy.


Mistake of regarding a mutilated or decomposed body unsuitable for autopsy.


Mistakes resulting from nonrecognition or misinterpretation of postmortem changes.


Mistake of failing to make an adequate examination and description of external abnormalities.


Mistake of confusing the objective with the subjective sections of the protocol.


The mistake of not examining the body at the scene of the crime.


Mistake of substituting intuition for scientifically defensible interpretation.


Mistake of not making adequate photographs of the evidence.


Mistake of permitting the value of the protocol to be jeopardized by minor errors.


Mistake of talking too soon, too much and to the wrong people.
MORITZ AR. Classical mistakes in forensic pathology. Am J Clin Pathol. 1956 Dec;26(12):1383-97. doi: 10.1093/ajcp/26.12.1383. PMID: 13394547.