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Forensic Pathology Topic Center

Dr. Charles Norris, New York City's first chief medical examiner, with microscope. [Between 1930 and 1932?] Photograph. Retrieved from the Library of Congress.

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Resources on Forensic Pathology, Medicine, and Science

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


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 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.

Additional Forensic Pathology Resources

Andrew Davidhazy. Shotgun shot sequence. CC-BY-3.0.

FEMA Financial Assistance for COVID-19-Related Funeral Expenses: Medical Examiner and Coroner Implications

Starting in April 2021, FEMA will provide financial assistance for COVID-19-related funeral expenses incurred after January 20, 2020. This has implications for medical examiners and coroners. Read more

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 Fee-for-Service Autopsy Listing Interest 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.

In addition to the CAP Autopsy fee-for-service list, NAME has a private autopsy list.

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

Range-of-Fire Determination  Lock  
Authors: Elizabeth Douglas, MD, FCAP; Joseph A. Prahlow, MD, FCAP

Guidelines, Statements, and Position Papers

Related Links

  • Autopsy Topic Center
  • Anatomic Pathology Educations Programs
  • National Association of Medical Examiners (NAME)
    • NAME is the national professional organization of physician medical examiners, medicolegal death investigators and death investigation system administrators who perform the official duties of the medicolegal investigation of deaths of public interest in the United States. Their web site includes information about the forensic pathology match, forensic autopsy standards, forensic pathology position papers, information on how to become a forensic pathologist, job offerings, and a variety of educational content.
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
    • CDC is the nation’s leading science-based, data-driven, service organization that protects the public’s health. Their website has a variety of useful resources about disease and death certification. 
  • National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS)
    • The National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) collects, analyzes, and disseminates timely, relevant, and accurate health data and statistics. Our products and services inform the public and guide program and policy decisions to improve our nation’s health.
  • American Academy of Forensic Sciences
    • The American Academy of Forensic Sciences (AAFS) is a multidisciplinary professional organization that provides leadership to advance science and its application to the legal system. Membership is comprised of pathologists, attorneys, dentists, toxicologists, anthropologists, document examiners, digital evidence experts, psychiatrists, engineers, physicists, chemists, criminalists, educators, researchers, and others. Our objectives are to promote professionalism, integrity, competency, education, foster research, improve practice, and encourage collaboration in the forensic sciences.

CAP Press Publications

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

  • Autopsy Performance and Reporting, 2nd Edition
  • Handbook of Forensic Pathology, 2nd Edition

CAP Public Policies

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

  • Technological Adjuncts to the Autopsy
  • Optimizing Death Investigations and Forensic Sciences Practices
  • Criteria for Autopsies
  • Restrictions on the Uses of Autopsy Materials
  • Payment and Performance of the Autopsy Service
  • Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)
  • Certification of Death
  • Observation of an Autopsy as Punishment
  • Informed Consent for Autopsy
  • Retention of Laboratory Records and Materials
  • Autopsy Organ and Tissue Retention
  • Requirements of Chief Medical Examiners

Join the Forensic Pathology Committee

Learn more about our committee activities and how to join the Forensic Pathology Committee.

  • Products of Conception Guidance

    In response to outreach from members regarding the potential impact on the practice of pathology of the Dobbs v Jackson Supreme Court decision, the CAP created an aid for pathologists on the processing and reporting of pregnancy tissues/products of conception (POC) specimens.

  • CAPcast: Forensic Pathologists React to "Body of Proof"

    Three members of the CAP's Forensic Pathology Committee react to how forensic scientists are portrayed in TV and film. In the first in the series, guests talked about the ABC show "Body of Proof."

  • What You Need to Know About Forensic Pathology

    Forensic pathologist and chief medical examiner James Gill, MD answers questions about the ins and outs of forensic pathology and the field's experts.

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