What is forensic pathology?

Forensic pathology is a recognized subspecialty of medicine where a physician uses his or her knowledge of medicine and pathology (human disease) to help solve legal problems. Forensic pathologists offer diagnoses and medicolegal opinions about diseases and injuries in both living and deceased individuals.

Who are forensic pathologists?

Forensic pathologists are medical doctors who have specialized training in the study of human disease (pathology), and additional subspecialized training in forensic pathology. In today’s day and age, forensic pathologists not only have formal fellowship training in forensic pathology, but board certification by examination as well. In the United States, board certification in forensic pathology is offered by the American Board of Pathology, and in Canada, pathologists can become certified in forensic pathology by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada.

What is an autopsy?

An autopsy or postmortem examination, is the physical examination of the body of a deceased person. An autopsy takes many forms; the depth of examination utilized will vary depending on the necessities of an individual case, the expectations of individual institutions, and the training and comfort level of the responsible forensic pathologist. Some deceased bodies may only undergo an “external” examination — that is, an examination without any incisions being made into the body. Others will involve varyingly detailed dissections of the soft tissues under the skin, the skeletal system, and the internal organs.

What is the "cause of death"?

The “cause of death” is the event, or train of events, no matter how brief or prolonged, that ultimately leads to a person’s demise. For example, a person who is struck in the head with a baseball bat may be said to have died of “blunt head trauma”. In another example, a man who collapses and dies suddenly and unexpectedly and who is forced to have a coronary artery that is blocked by cholesterol can be said to have died of atherosclerosis cardiovascular disease.

What is the "manner of death"?

The “manner of death” describes the circumstances in which the individual met their demise. In most jurisdictions, the manner of death will be one of four classical circumstances — natural, accidental, suicidal or homicidal. When one manner of death is not more likely than the other, the coroner or medical examiner may also select “undetermined” or “cannot be determined” as the manner of death.

Forensic pathology for living patients?

Living patients may have medicolegal issues that are relevant to the practicing forensic pathologist. Such individuals may have medical problems that resulted from inappropriate medical care, injuries from assault, injuries that are alleged to have occured during pursuit or custody of law enforcement, just to name a few.

Does my loved one need an autopsy?

We are sorry if you have recently lost a family member or loved one.

It is our experience that family members are more likely to regret NOT obtaining an autopsy than choosing to have an autopsy performed. Questions about the cause or manner of a loved one’s death can linger for years; the distress caused by these unanswered questions may often be answered by autopsy.

In many circumstances, your loved one may receive an autopsy ordered by the local coroner or medical examiner. When the death does not obviously fall under the legal provisions of a Governmental death investigation system, the coroner or medical examiner may not be able to legally perform an autopsy. In those circumstances, family members may be asked to pursue a “consented” or “academic” autopsy at a local hospital, or with a private (fee-for-service) autopsy service. If you are considering requesting an autopsy on a family member and have questions you would like answered, or if you need help finding private autopsy services in your local jurisdiction, we would be pleased to provide assistance.

What is a virtual autopsy?

In the last ten or so years, there has been growing recognition of the important role advanced radiology techniques (both CAT scans and MRIs) can play in death investigation. In some cases, either CAT scan or MRI can replace the need for traditional autopsy. Some jurisdictions in the United States and Canada have the technology to perform “virtual autopsies”. The data obtained during the course of a virtual autopsy can be transformational and significantly alter the path a case takes.

When CAT scans and MRIs are performed on living individuals, virtual “autopsies” of a sort can be performed on living people as well, with an eye toward answering difficult medicolegal questions. Although some people consider this the strict realm of radiologists, a growing number of forensic pathologists are comfortable performing virtual autopsy examinations.

What does a consultation involve?

A second opinion forensic pathology consultation involves numerous steps including:

  1. Application and conflict check
  2. Submission of all medical evidence
  3. Organization, review and summary of the medical evidence
  4. Generation of expert opinions
  5. Verbal report provided to client
  6. Written report provided to client upon demand
  7. Oral evidence upon demand.

It is our goal to complete steps 3 through 5 within seven calendar days.

How quickly can I have an expert opinion?

It is our goal to provide clients with expert opinions within seven calendar days of the receipt of all medical evidence.

How much do consultation services cost?

The NAAG Forensic operates on a sliding scale, with the cost of consultations varying based on the complexity of the case, and the source of funding. Depending on the seniority of the forensic pathologist, and the funding source, hourly rates vary between $250 per hour and $500 per hour.

Governmental agencies and attorneys performing work on an “appointed” case are eligible to receive a 37.5% discount off our standard rates. Pre-negotiated flat rate fee arrangements may be available in some circumstances.

Does NAAG Forensic offer Pro Bono consultations?

Yes and no. NO in that the NAAG Forensic believes that pro bono work — while incredibly important — denotes advocacy for a cause or “side”. The physicians at the NAAG Forensic are advocates only for the science in each case. As such, we do not perform pro bono work.

YES, we rarely take on pro bono work in those cases where we believe a grave injustice has or will occur without expert level medical intervention, and where we are uniquely qualified to offer assistance. In those cases, the NAAG Forensic physicians are paid their standard consultation fees on the case by our Company, even if the client is unable to pay for our services.

Individuals seeking consideration for pro bono consultation(s) need to contact the Chair of the pro bono committee Mrs. Alyssa Shumaker for information on how to apply.

NAAG Forensic Contact Information

I might need a consultation. Where do I start?

If you are uncertain if a consultation with a forensic pathologist is right for you and your case, please contact us and ask to speak about how a consultation might assist your case, and if the NAAG Forensic would be the right fit for your needs. We would be happy to put you in touch with any of our doctors.

NAAG Forensic Contact Information

I definitely need a consultation. What now?

If you know that you need a consultation, please signup a new client application form. Click Here

Full Service Forensic Pathology Consultation Services