What is forensic pathology?
Forensic pathology is a specialized branch of medicine that combines the expertise of medicine and pathology (study of human disease) to address legal matters. Forensic pathologists provide insights into diseases and injuries, offering diagnoses and medico-legal opinions for 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. These medical professionals complete formal fellowship training in forensic pathology and earn board certification. In the United States, the American Board of Pathology handles this certification, while in Canada, the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada provides certification in forensic pathology. Certification is conferred after successful completion of written examination.
What is an autopsy?
An autopsy, also known as a postmortem examination, involves a thorough physical examination of a deceased individual's body. The extent of this examination can differ based on the specific requirements of the case, institutional guidelines, and the expertise of the forensic pathologist overseeing the autopsy. While some autopsies might only involve an "external" assessment, meaning no incisions into the body, others will involve detailed dissections of the soft tissues under the skin, the skeletal structure, and internal organs.
What is a virtual autopsy?
Over the past decade, there has been growing recognition of the important role advanced radiology techniques (both CT scans and MRIs) can play in a death investigation. In some cases, either a CT scan or MRI can replace the need for a traditional autopsy. Several jurisdictions in the U.S. and Canada are now equipped to conduct "virtual autopsies." The data obtained from a virtual autopsy can significantly influence the direction and outcome of a case.
While CT scans and MRIs are typically associated with living patients, they can effectively serve as virtual "autopsies" to address complex medico-legal inquiries. Although traditionally viewed as a domain for radiologists, an increasing number of forensic pathologists are now adept at performing and interpreting virtual autopsy examinations using CT scans, MRI scans, or both.
What is the "cause of death"?
The "cause of death" refers to the specific event or sequence of events, brief or prolonged, that ultimately results in an individual's demise. It pinpoints the direct reason behind the fatality. For instance, if someone dies after being hit on the head with a baseball bat, their cause of death would be "blunt head trauma." Similarly, a person who suddenly collapses from a heart attack, caused by a cholesterol-blocked coronary artery, has died from "atherosclerotic 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.
Does my loved one need an autopsy?
Our heartfelt condolences on the loss of your loved one or family member.
From our experience, many families later regret not proceeding with an autopsy, as unanswered questions about a loved one's cause or manner of death can weigh heavily over time. An autopsy often provides clarity that helps in the grieving process.
In many circumstances, your loved one may receive an autopsy ordered by the local coroner or medical examiner. However, when the death doesn’t obviously fall under the legal provisions of the Governmental death investigation system, the coroner or medical examiner may not be able to legally perform an autopsy. In such cases, families might be directed to consider a "consented" or "academic" autopsy via local hospitals or through private, fee-based autopsy services.
Should you need guidance on this matter, or assistance in locating private autopsy services in your area, please don't hesitate to reach out. We're here to support you.
What is clinical forensic medicine (for living patients)?
While forensic pathology often deals with deceased individuals, living patients may have medico-legal issues that are relevant to the practicing forensic pathologist. These individuals may have medical problems that result from inappropriate or substandard medical care, assault-related injuries, or injuries that are alleged to have occurred during the pursuit or custody of law enforcement, among others.
What does a second opinion consultation entail?
When you seek a second opinion from NAAG Forensic, we follow a comprehensive process to ensure thoroughness and accuracy:
Initial application and conflict verification.
Collection of all pertinent medical evidence.
Organization, review, and summary of the gathered medical evidence.
Formulation of expert opinions based on the evidence.
Provision of a detailed verbal report to the client.
Delivery of a written report upon the client's request.
Presentation of oral evidence if required.
How quickly can I have an expert opinion?
At NAAG Forensic, we understand the urgency and importance of timely medico-legal opinions. We are committed to serving our clients with both precision and speed. Our objective is to ensure that expert insights are not just accurate, but also timely. Hence, we aim to deliver these expert opinions within a span of seven calendar days once we've received all the requisite medical evidence. Our streamlined process, combined with our team's dedication, ensures that we meet this objective consistently, providing our clients with the clarity and information they seek without undue delay. Speak to your assigned lead investigator to ensure your deadlines are met.
How much do consultation services cost?
The cost of consultations at NAAG Forensic is calibrated based on the complexity of the case and the source of funding. Hourly rates can range from $250 to $500, contingent upon the expertise of the forensic pathologist and the funding source.
Governmental agencies and attorneys performing work on an “appointed” case are eligible to access standardized government rates.
Does NAAG Forensic offer Pro Bono consultations?
No. And Yes.
First, at NAAG Forensic, we believe our primary commitment is to the science in each case, rather than advocating for a specific side. This means we generally don't offer pro bono work that could suggest favoring a particular party.
Second, we proudly offer our consultation services pro bono to the Innocence Project, both locally and nationally, assisting with cases that meet specific criteria.
Attorneys from the Innocence Project can contact our investigative team for assistance at [email protected].
I might need a consultation. Where do I start?
If you are uncertain if a forensic pathologist consultation is the right step for your situation, please reach out to us. We'll discuss how our expertise at NAAG Forensic can benefit your case and determine if we're the right match for your needs. Our team of doctors is available to address any questions you may have.
I definitely need a consultation. What now?
If you're certain you need a consultation, complete our new client application form.
Once submitted, our team will promptly review your information and guide you through the next steps. We're here to assist you every step of the way.