Mistakes may be committed when performing a medicolegal autopsy. Awareness of potential pitfalls can help the physician avoid compromising the examination.


Data collection errors:

(1) failure to visit the scene

(2) failure to read the police report

(3) failure to obtain a reliable medical history

(4) failure to obtain a reliable social history

(5) failure to determine the person's activities about the time of death

(6) failure to examine and preserve clothing

(7) failure to observe inconsistencies in the body relative to the scene


Identification errors:

(1) failure to positively identify the body

(2) failure to fingerprint

(3) failure to take X-rays

(4) failure to document dental findings

(5) failure to adequately photograph the body


Specimen collection errors:

(1) allowing the body to be washed prior to examination

(2) failure to collect adequate toxicologic specimens

(3) failure to collect samples for DNA analysis

(4) failure to collect evidence on the clothing or body surface

(5) failure to properly label containers

(6) failure to keep backup material

(7) failure to take cultures when applicable

(8) failure to document insect infestations and to collect larvae


Dissection errors:

(1) performing an incomplete autopsy

(2) allowing the body to be embalmed prior to the autopsy

(3) performing a limited examination of a decomposing or burned body

(5) failure to dissect the anterior and posterior neck

(6) failure to examine the cervical spine

(7) failure to strip the dura mater from the skull

(8) poor technique

(9) kept poor records of the findings

(10) failure to preserve tissue specimens

(11) failure to detect material findings (surgical scars, glass eye, etc.) known present with the person


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