Downs, J. C. Upshaw Coastal Regional Crime Laboratory, Division of Forensic Sciences, Georgia Bureau of Investigation, Savannah, Georgia.
Last reviewed:June 2018
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The medical practice involving the analysis of sudden, unnatural, unexpected injury or death. “Forensic” derives from the Latin forensis, meaning relating to the forum or public. Forensic medicine is obviously a matter of public interest. Although the term is often considered to be synonymous with legal medicine, the latter is a subset of the former that involves to the application of medical information concerning injury and death to the legal setting, be it criminal or civil. Today, this overall specialty is best known as forensic pathology. The discipline is actually a subspecialty of the field of pathology, the medical specialty involving the use of the laboratory to study disease. Forensic pathologists possess all the qualifications of the anatomic or clinical pathologists that are typically encountered in the hospital setting, but have additional postgraduate training that is directly applicable to the legal aspects of medicine, including but not limited to evidence recognition, documentation, and collection; chain of custody; legal procedures; testimony; and levels of certainty (see illustration). See also: Clinical pathology; Forensic science evidence; Medicine; Paleopathology
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