Forensic Pathology Topic Center

Recognizing the needs of the pathologist and pathology with regard to forensic casework.

Resources on forensic pathology, medicine and science.


Forensic pathology

Forensic pathology is the subspecialty of pathology that directs its efforts to the examination of living or dead persons in order to provide an opinion concerning the cause, mechanism, and manner of disease, injury or death; the identification of persons; the significance of biological and physical evidence; the correlation and/or reconstruction of wounds, wound patterns, and sequences; and conducting comprehensive medicolegal death investigations.

Forensic pathology applies techniques of pathology to the needs and protection of public health, public safety, quality assurance, education in medicine, research, jurisprudence, and the administration of justice. Its highest goal is the development of strategies to prevent injury, disease, and death.

Forensic pathologist

A forensic pathologist is a pathologist with special training and experience in forensic pathology who is actively engaged in medicolegal autopsies and death investigations. Forensic pathologists shall be board-certified by the American Board of Pathology or American Osteopathic Board of Pathology after appropriate training and passing a rigorous examination, or a non-USA based pathologist with equivalent certification.

The practicing forensic pathologist is licensed in one or more states; he/she is skilled in conducting death investigations, interpreting injuries in both fatal and non-fatal cases, performing medicolegal examinations, determining disease/injury causation to an appropriate degree of medical certainty and determining cause and manner of death.

Fee-for-Service Autopsies

The autopsy fee-for-service list consists of members of the College of American Pathologists (CAP) who expressed an interest in performing autopsies on a fee-for-service basis.

Member pathologists must log in to access the request form if you want to include your information on the list. The list is a service to members of the public seeking a pathologist to perform an autopsy.

Guidelines for Cooperation Between Pathologists and Funeral Professional

CAP revised these guidelines (PDF, 103 K) at the request of the National Funeral Directors Association. Input was obtained from funeral directors and from pathologists serving on the CAP autopsy and forensic pathology committees.

Sample Forensic Case

Read a sample case on water intoxication. (PDF, 237 KB)

Guidelines, Statements, and Position Papers

Related Resources

Access other CAP committee topic centers and programs:

CAP Press Publications

The following publications are available for purchase through our CAP Press Publications site and the eStore.

  • Basic Competencies in Forensic Pathology, 1st Edition
  • Autopsy and Forensic Anthology of Classic Pathology Images, 1st Edition
  • Handbook of Forensic Pathology, 2nd Edition

CAP Public Policies

The CAP Public Policies outline the CAP's positions on the following issues:

  • Definition of the Autopsy
  • Guidelines and Criteria for Non-Forensic Autopsies
  • Informed Consent for Autopsy
  • Observation of an Autopsy as Punishment
  • Optimizing Death Investigations and Forensic Sciences Practice
  • Payment and Performance of Autopsy Service
  • Restrictions on the Uses of Autopsy Materials
  • Technological Adjuncts to the Autopsy
  • Informed Consent for Donation, Use and Disposition of Human Tissue for Nondiagnostic Purposes
  • Retention of Laboratory Records and Materials
  • Expert Witness Guidelines in Medical Malpractice Cases for the Speciality of Pathology
  • Pathologist role in Confronting the Opioid Crisis
  • Certification of Death
  • Model Medical Examiner Legislation
  • Requirements of Chief Medical Examiners

Join the Forensic Pathology Committee

Learn more about our committee activities and how to join the forensic pathology committee.

- Login and CAP Membership Required.