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Forensic Pathology is the study of how injury and/or disease affect a person at the point of death. An autopsy is a detailed form of medical inspection of the body, performed by a Forensic Pathologist, to determine the presence, nature and extent of any disease or damage in order to ascertain the cause of death. In the Franklin County Coroner's Office there are five Forensic Pathologists who, as Deputy Coroners, examine bodies externally and determine whether an autopsy is indicated. If indicated, a Forensic Pathologist does an autopsy to determine the cause and manner of death.

An autopsy consists of the gross external and internal examination of a body and of microscopic examinations of tissues for evidence of disease and trace physical evidence. Additional studies such as special stains or microscopic tissue sections, bacterial and viral cultures, rape examinations and analyses for inborn errors of metabolism are utilized as needed.
Autopsies on victims of homicide stabbings and gun shots can help to collect evidence that may help to convict the guilty party or it may help to exonerate the innocent one. The autopsy may prevent the defense from claiming that the decedent was already dead when the defendant shot or stabbed him. Investigations of deaths in childhood can help to confirm the suspicion of abuse or allay any suspicions of abuse in cases of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
If the manner of death is ruled a homicide, the Forensic Pathologist may also be asked to testify at the Grand Jury or in the Court of Common Pleas. Regardless of the manner of death, the Forensic Pathologist may be required to give expert testimony in civil trials and proceedings as to the specific cause of death; for example, wrongful death, auto accident and work-related accidents.

The Coroner's Office cooperates with all investigating agencies to provide justice for the dead. Not all autopsies reveal the cause of death even after the toxicological, microscopic, and police investigations are concluded. These cases are ruled "undetermined" and they are more likely to occur when decomposition removes "vital" clues to the cause of death. Some causes of abnormal heart beat do not leave anatomical clues and may be difficult or impossible to document after death.

The Forensic Pathologists at the Franklin County Coroner's Office also are Adjunct Professors at The Ohio State University and play a vital role in teaching future pathologists, nurses, emergency medical technicians, fire persons, police officers and other profession.

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