Forensic Pathology is the study of how injury and/or disease affect a person resulting in death. An autopsy is a detailed medical examination of the body, performed by a Forensic Pathologist, to determine the presence, nature, and extent of any disease or injury in order to ascertain the cause and manner of death.
At the Franklin County Forensic Science Center
there are six Forensic Pathologists who, as Deputy Coroners, analyze the circumstances surrounding
the death and determine whether an autopsy is indicated. Autopsies are performed at the discretion of the team of pathologists. For cases in which an autopsy is not indicated, an external examination is performed. An
autopsy consists of the gross external and internal examination of a body with documentation of injuries and natural disease. Additional studies such as microscopic
examination, immunohistochemistry, special tissue staining, toxicology, bacterial and viral cultures,
molecular testing, sexual assault examinations,
and analyses for inborn errors of metabolism are utilized
Investigations of deaths in childhood help to confirm
or allay any suspicions of abuse in cases of Sudden
Unexpected Infant Deaths (SUID). If the manner of
death is certified as a homicide, the Forensic
Pathologist may be asked to provide unbiased expert
testimony utilizing the autopsy findings at the Grand
Jury or in the Court of Common Pleas. Regardless of
the manner of death, the Forensic Pathologist may
be required to give expert testimony in civil trials and
proceedings as to the specific cause of death; for
example, auto accidents or work-related accidents.
Not all autopsies reveal the cause of death even after
thorough medical and police investigations are
concluded. These cases are certified "undetermined"
and can occur for a variety of reasons. Some causes
of natural deaths, such as abnormal heart beat, do
not leave anatomical clues and may be difficult or
impossible to document after death.
The Forensic Pathologists participate in meetings at
the Columbus Department of Public Health where
they present specific case findings during the Traffic
Fatality Review, Child Fatality Review, and SUID
Review. These reviews occur quarterly to monthly
and help to look for patterns that may be used to
decrease mortality in our community. The Franklin
County Forensic Science Center has formal
agreements with Nationwide Children’s Hospital,
The Ohio State University, and Ohio University for
teaching purposes. The Forensic Pathologists
play a vital role in teaching future pathologists,
medical students, nurses, various other medical
professionals, and law enforcement officers.