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Forensic Pathologist Job Description

Sheeba Nambiar
Forensic pathologist job description is too vast and consists of a lot of duties as compared to a general pathologist.
Before we familiarize ourselves with forensic pathologist job description, let us understand this branch of pathology which is termed as forensic pathology. Forensic pathology is a branch of pathology that deals with determining the cause of death by a thorough examination of a corpse.
Forensic pathology plays an equally important role in both criminal as well as civil law cases. The forensic pathologists perform an autopsy to identify the body and to determine the nature and cause of death.
This mostly happens in civil law cases where the cause of death is unknown and thus an examination by these professionals helps in the investigation and consequently helps in resolving the case.
Forensic pathologist is a doctor in medicine who has acquired training in anatomical pathology along with a specialization in forensic pathology. To qualify, one needs to fulfill the mentioned requirements that vary from country to country.
Forensic toxicology is another variant of forensic science that deals with similar cases and basic knowledge about forensic toxicology, forensic anthropology, forensic serology, DNA technology and other areas of forensic specialties such as trace evidence analysis etc, is required.

Job Description of a Forensic Pathologist

The most important aspect that defines a forensic pathologist's job is that they investigate deaths that have occurred due to a suicide, homicide or in an accident. They indirectly help in the criminal investigation process by examining the body of the deceased to know if the death occurred in any suspicious circumstances.
In addition to examining the deaths occurring in unusual circumstances, pathologists are also involved in cases where death occurs in police custody, death during a surgery, death from a communicable disease or in cases where the person dies within 24 hours of entering a hospital.
The first step of the investigation involves obtaining an account of the nature of death and a medical history record of the deceased. In most cases, he is also required to visit the scene of crime or death to obtain evidence that could lead to determining the different aspects of death.
A preliminary examination of the body is first performed at the death scene and evidence such as hair, fingerprint identification, bodily fluids, etc. are collected and documented as they could be crucial in determining the different factors relating to the death.
The next step is to perform the autopsy the purpose of which is to inspect the exterior as well as the interiors of the body that could lead to relating the cause of death. Taking X-rays, extracting bodily fluids and tissues for chemical and toxicological analysis is also a part of this step.
Once the earlier mentioned procedures are performed, the forensic pathologist also has to find answers to crucial questions relating to the investigation such as the time of death, whether it was a normal or an abnormal death, the cause of death, the weapon or instrument used if the death was due to an injury, etc,.
He also needs to determine whether the body was moved to a different place after death or did the person die on the spot where the body was found.
The final step while dealing with a case involves evaluating the autopsy and lab reports or results in order to ascertain the nature and cause of death. It is followed by making a report summarizing the findings and conclusive statements that indicate the closure of the case.

Other Duties

Besides the aforementioned main job profile, there are a number of miscellaneous tasks that are required to be performed by them.
Some of which include the following:
  • Training subordinate pathologists and support staff
  • Conducting research
  • Interpreting medical records
  • Design programs for special death investigations
  • Constant coordination of work with law enforcement officials
  • Preparing reports, illustrations and other documents with the use of computers
With many career opportunities available in coroner's offices and medical offices, medical schools, private firms throughout the country. And with an attractive salary, the one with the right qualifications and skills cannot miss out on obtaining this job.