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Year : 2019  |  Volume : 19  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 45-50

Coroners' autopsies and medicolegal evidence: Have we always answered the crucial questions?

1 Department of Morbid Anatomy and Forensic Medicine, Obafemi Awolowo University Teaching Hospitals Complex, Ile-Ife, Nigeria
2 Department of Morbid Anatomy and Histopathology, LAUTECH University Teaching Hospital, Osogbo, Nigeria
3 Department of Anatomic Pathology, Ekiti State University, Ado-Ekiti, Nigeria

Correspondence Address:
Dr. A O Komolafe
Department of Morbid Anatomy and Forensic Medicine, Obafemi Awolowo University Teaching Hospitals Complex, P.M.B. 5538, Enuwa Post Office, Ile-Ife, Osun
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/njhs.njhs_11_20

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Introduction: The coroner's autopsy is a core medicolegal service which the pathologist upon receiving an order from legal authorities undertakes in reverence and deference to the law. It is therefore a great responsibility and it is incumbent on the anatomical pathologist to attend to the questions that the law expects to be answered in a strictly professional sense. Answering the relevant and crucial questions will help the court to arrive at a veritable verdict with regard to the issues that prompted the medicolegal autopsy. Materials and Methods: Medicolegal autopsy reports of the Department of Morbid Anatomy and Forensic Medicine, OAUTHC, Ile-Ife, Osun State over 11 years, were analyzed for documentation such as identity, cause of death, circumstances of death, resolution of conflicts, criteria for diagnoses, conclusions among others. Results: There were 199 cases including 115 cases of accidents, 50 cases of homicides, 32 cases of natural diseases, and 2 cases of suicides. All cases were properly identified, generally poor commentaries were written in most cases and not all cases had criteria for diagnoses and medicolegal concerns considered. Differential diagnoses which were morphological inferences that could conflict diagnoses or opinions were not considered in many cases. Conclusion: The role of the anatomical pathologist is central in the medicolegal team which investigates the issues related to deaths in suspicious circumstances. Taking cognizance of the main issues at stake and the concerns of the court would guide the pathologist to exercise due diligence in order to assist the court in a more appropriate way.

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