Forensic Pathology Rotation

Forensic Pathology Goals and Objectives

During forensic pathology training in the Anatomic and Clinical Pathology Residency Program, each resident will master the following skills:

Forensic Pathology Patient Care

  • Demonstrate suitable diagnostic skills using both gross and microscopic materials from cases showing common accidental, suicidal, and homicidal causes of death
  • Demonstrate uncompromising respect for human remains and foster this attitude among other personnel

Forensic Pathology Medical Knowledge

  • Formulate the cause of death including the underlying cause of death, intervening causes of death, if any, and the immediate cause of death, as well as any other conditions contributing to death
  • Know the differences between a cause of death, a mechanism of death and a manner of death

Practice-Based Learning and Improvement

  • Learn proper procedures for retrieving projectiles at autopsy to preserve their value as ballistic evidence
  • Learn proper techniques for photography, documentation and collection of samples from clothing and the body surface for use as evidence
  • Learn proper techniques used for sampling fluids and tissues for forensic toxicology

Interpersonal and Communication Skills

Screen a chart or interview a caregiver to extract relevant information and to identify cases falling under the jurisdiction of a medical examiner.


  • Demonstrate uncompromising respect for human remains and foster this attitude among other personnel
  • Develop the ability to objectively evaluate anatomic evidence without emotional involvement
  • Show evidence of appropriate respect for confidentiality of information

Forensic Pathology Systems-Based Practice

  • Understand the authority of a medical examiner to claim jurisdiction over an autopsy as defined by O.R.C. §313:11-12
  • Understand the procedures required for legal evidence to document chain of custody
  • Visit the office of the medical examiner to gain familiarity with technical differences between autopsies performed in medical examiner's cases and hospital cases by witnessing and assisting to the extent possible in the prosection of the medical examiner's autopsies

Forensic Pathology Rotation Duration

Instruction in forensic pathology is divided into several components. The core of the didactic training is provided by members of the Cuyahoga County medical examiner's office as a series of lectures distributed over the training of the resident. The core experience in forensic pathology takes place at the medical examiner's office.

Residents visiting the medical examiner's office attend the morning staff meeting when autopsies are planned for the day. After the staff meeting, the resident attends one or more of the available autopsies which are usually conducted during the morning. Finally, more intensive exposure to forensic pathology is available to residents in the form of a one-month elective rotation.

Duties and Responsibilities of Residents by Year

  • Attend crime scene investigations and court appearances if possible
  • Attend morning viewing with the medical examiner and deputy medical examiners and participate in autopsy prosection with deputy coroners
  • Rotate in Trace Evidence and Forensic Toxicology

Because of the sensitive nature of the medicolegal cases handled by the medical examiner's office, the role of residents in the day to day operations at the medical examiner's office is limited to observation only. The role of the resident, therefore, does not change on a year-to-year basis.

Forensic Pathology Supervision and Evaluation

Residents participating in regular visitation of the medical examiner's autopsies are supervised by the medical examiner's staff.

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