Purpose of Medico-legal Autopsy Essay


Reflect upon the “The Autopsy” and answer the following questions in one essay:

Outline the five specific steps involved in the complete medicolegal autopsy (postmortem examination) and provide the purposes for doing it. Evaluate in detail the differences between:
the cause of death,
the manner of death, and
the mode of death.
Describe in detail the five specific purposes for ordering a medicolegal autopsy by the medical examiner and the rationale behind each type of request Purpose of Medico-legal Autopsy Essay.

Assignment Expectations:
Length: 1,500 words; answers must thoroughly address the questions in a clear, concise manner
Structure: Include a title page and reference page in APA style, these do not count towards the minimum word amount
References: At least two references are required

The Procedure and Purpose of Medicolegal Autopsy

Autopsies or post-mortem examinations are sets of surgical procedures that are engaged by medical experts to facilitate examinations of corpses so as to establish the potential causes, manner, and mode in which their deaths occurred (Roberts, et al., 2012). Through post-mortem examinations, medical experts can analyze and determine whether deaths were caused by injuries or diseases. Besides, autopsies are helpful as they serve the purpose of fulfilling research or educational functions. Specialized medical doctors referred to as histopathologists, with the help of anatomic pathology technologists, are charged with the roles performing autopsies (Roberts, et al., 2012). This essay presents a reflection of the film “The Autopsy of Jane Doe,” and outlines the specific steps involved as well as the specific circumstances under which medicolegal autopsies are ordered Purpose of Medico-legal Autopsy Essay.

The film “The Autopsy of Jane Doe”

André Øvredal’s supernatural horror movie “The Autopsy of Jane Doe” presents the encounter of two coroners who are also father and son, and who experience unnatural phenomena while examining Jane Doe’s body. The body has no visible signs or leads to possible forced entry, which makes the sheriffs quickly conclude that the victim had tried to escape during her murder (Harvey, 2016). Tommy and Austin, the two pathologists are confused with the absence of possible signs of trauma, while the deceased’s arms and wrists seem shattered, tongue brutally chopped, molars removed, her lungs darkened to suggest a possible burn, with particular internal organs injured. Besides, within the body is Jimsonweed, usually a paralyzer and the missing molars are properly wrapped with a piece of cloth and placed within the stomach Purpose of Medico-legal Autopsy Essay.

The Procedure and Purpose of Medicolegal Autopsy

Unusual events occur while the autopsy examination continues. The radio in the laboratory keep switching stations all by itself, the facility cat is brutally murdered and the rest of the bodies within the morgue go missing. The door locks itself while they are in and they can see one of the missing corpses from the key hole. After engaging the bodies in their attempt to escape from the fiasco, Tommy surrenders to the corpse in an attempt to save Austin (Harvey, 2016). In the process, his ankles and wrists shatter just like the corpse, and the rest of the wounds in his body mimic those observed in the corpse. Austin tries to flee, but trips and falls dead after reluctantly stubbing his father.

Cause, manner, and mode of death

Despite the unnatural ordeals in the film “The Autopsy of Jane Doe,” it presents an ideal procedure established for a standard post-mortem examination process. In autopsy, the causes, manner and mode of death represent different ideas. Histopathologists use the term cause of death to indicate the medical prospects that must have resulted to death. An examination of the causes of death only concerns the potential diseases or injuries that might have led to the death in question Purpose of Medico-legal Autopsy Essay. The manner of death, however, encompasses a small number of categories that can be summed up into natural, accidents or homicides (Roberts, et al., 2012). A manner of death has potential legal implications. While investigating the manner of death, individuals in charge might assess the reasons why an accident might have occurred, why an individual committed suicide, or why an individual indulged into a homicide. On the other hand, the mode or mechanism of death is a physiologically categorized element that leads to death. It can be simply defined as the specific physiological derangement that results into death. For example, gunshots wounds would probably lead to excessive hemorrhage or exsanguination which then results to death. The three aspects are different, but important to pathological analysis of deaths Purpose of Medico-legal Autopsy Essay.

Steps involved in the medicolegal autopsy Procedure

The autopsy process is performed through specific procedures and standards that are meant to establish a procedure that reflects respect to the corpse before their relatives and close friends. A standard autopsy procedure involves Y-incision, removal of body organs, analysis of stomach content, collection of useful samples, and examination of the head and brain sections.


Pathologist often apply the Y-incision procedure to open up the deceased’s breastplate, which permits access to the key internal organs of access such as the stomach, heart, lungs, liver, spleen, among other organs (Indiana State Judiciary, 2015). The incision assumes the shape of the letter Y since it is cut from either of the two shoulders and advances progressively to the lower ends of the sternum, before it proceeds downwards in a single straight line, overpasses the abdomen and then advances towards the pubis Purpose of Medico-legal Autopsy Essay.

Removal of Organs

This procedure supersedes the Y-incision and it involves removing all the key organs and weighing them. The importance of removing the key body organs is that certain illnesses often cause considerable changes in the weights of critical organs such as the heart, liver or spleen (Pappas, 2013). Conventionally, the organs are to be removed in a single unit. However, with reference to the extent of trauma of the body, the organs might be removed in sequences deemed fit by the pathologist in charge. The weighing of each organ is critical as it informs the extent to which target organs were affected by the possible cause of death (Roberts, et al., 2012).

Sample Collection

After the removal and weighing of each all the organs, the next step in the autopsy process is the collection of all the necessary lead samples. The pathologists need samples to aid in possible further tests that would be applied to deduce the possible causes or mechanisms of death. Blood samples are critical in any kind of autopsies. On the other hand, DNA samples are necessary, but not all types of autopsies demand the collection of DNA samples. Other samples might include body juices, and any broken or damaged sections of organs (Roberts, et al., 2012). Samples of the outcome of toxicological tests of the heart and blood vessels are also needed to help the pathologists deduce possible effects of poisoning. Further samples can be gathered from the gall bladder, ocular organs, liver tissues, and urine to assist in establishing more comprehensive toxicological results. This is important, especially in scenarios where no significant physical injuries are observed Purpose of Medico-legal Autopsy Essay.

Examination of Stomach Content

After collection all the necessary samples, the pathologists shifts their attention to the abdominal section of the body. Here, tissue samples and stomach content are gathered for further analysis (Pappas, 2013). Examination of the content of the stomach is critical to the autopsy process as it helps pathologists to clarify issues such as the victim’s last meal, and the possible time for the last meal. Determining the probable time of death is a matter of importance in some situations. Pathologists evaluate the nature of meals and the extent of their digestion to estimate the probable time frames of the deceased’s last meal and their time of death (Pappas, 2013).

Examination of the Head and Brain Sections

After all the procedures have been initiated and the necessary samples collected, the pathologists perform an analysis of the head and brain sections so as to assess any additional information concerning the mechanism of death. At this step, the pathologists assess any possible signs of head injury that could not be seen during external examinations (Roberts, et al., 2012). To effectively conduct the examination, pathologists create triangular incisions across the posterior sections of the scalp. The incision is necessary as it assists exposing the interior sections of the head for effective analysis. In complex processes, pathologists remove the brain for more comprehensive examinations and for the collection of necessary tissue samples. Organs are then replaced in the body and body sewing careful conducted (Roberts, et al., 2012). Pathologists then compile elaborate reports to law enforcement authorities to implement legal implications.

Purposesfor Ordering a Medicolegal Autopsy

Coroners order autopsies with legal protection from the liabilities that might occur during the procedure during the following circumstances Purpose of Medico-legal Autopsy Essay.

Unclear cause and manner of deaths- Autopsies are ordered in situations where the manner and cause of death cannot be established while such details are required to establish legal procedures. Determination of aspects such as fatal wounds, presence of any natural diseases, and the time difference between the causes of deaths and the actual physiological deaths are important (Indiana State Judiciary, 2015).

Accidents without witnesses- In situations where accidents occur and there are not concrete witnesses to it, autopsies are ordered to determine if such accidents might have additional causes and, mechanisms apart from accidents. In some accidents, the roles of natural diseases cannot be ruled out, hence the need for autopsies.

Death cases where civil litigation is involved- The manner, cause, and mechanisms of death form critical evidence when such incidences attract civil litigation. In the case of deaths caused by public fires, determining the actual cause and mechanisms of deaths helps to solve issues surrounding compensations(Pappas, 2013).

Suicide cases without evidence of intent– Autopsies are ordered upon corpses that have allegedly died from suicides, but who have not left evidence of intent such as suicide notes or possible signs of depression(Indiana State Judiciary, 2015). Such incidences attract more comprehensive analysis to determine whether such suicides are natural or induced Purpose of Medico-legal Autopsy Essay.

Probable homicides- Autopsies are also ordered in situations where the death in question is allegedly caused by other persons in any possible way. Examining the corpses and establishing leads to such deaths provides useful information that informs legal decisions(Indiana State Judiciary, 2015).


Harvey, D. (2016, September 16). Toronto Film Review: The Autopsy of Jane Doe. Retrieved from Penske Business Media: https://variety.com/2016/film/reviews/review-autopsy-of-jane-doe-toronto-emile-hirsch-1201862860/

Indiana State Judiciary. (2015). Section 501: Autopsy Protocol. Indiana: Investigator’s Reports and Case Files. Retrieved from Autopsy Protocol.

Pappas, S. (2013, March 5). Grotesque Mummy Head Reveals Advanced Medieval Science. Retrieved from Live Science: https://www.livescience.com/27624-mummy-head-middle-ages-anatomy.html

Roberts, I., Benamore, R., Benbow, E., Lee, S., Harris, J., Mallett, S., . . . Traill, Z. (2012). Post-mortem imaging as an alternative to autopsy in the diagnosis of adult deaths: A validation study. The Lancet, 379(9811), 136–142. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(11)61483-9 Purpose of Medico-legal Autopsy Essay.

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