Forensic pathology

The heart of a murder victim

Pathology that focuses on determining the cause of death by examining a corpse.

- Forensic pathology

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Study of the causes and effects of disease or injury.

A pathologist examines a tissue section for evidence of cancerous cells while a surgeon observes.
The advent of the microscope was one of the major developments in the history of pathology. Here researchers at the Centers for Disease Control in 1978 examine cultures containing Legionella pneumophila, the pathogen responsible for Legionnaire's disease.
A modern pathology lab at the Services Institute of Medical Sciences
A bone marrow smear from a case of erythroleukemia. The large cell in the top center is an abnormal erythroblast: it is multinucleated, with megaloblastoid nuclear chromatin This is diagnostic of erythroleukemia.
A malignant melanoma can often be suspected from sight, but confirmation of the diagnosis or outright removal requires an excisional biopsy.
Pathologist performing a human dissection of the abdominal and thoracic organs in an autopsy room
An instance of diagnosis via histopathology, this high-magnification micrograph of a section of cardiac tissue reveals advanced cardiac amyloidosis. This sample was attained through an autopsy.
This coronal cross-section of a brain reveals a significant arteriovenous malformation that occupies much of the parietal lobe.
This tissue cross-section demonstrates the gross pathology of polycystic kidneys.
Brain biopsy under stereotaxy. A small part of the tumor is taken via a needle with a vacuum system.
Clinical chemistry: an automated blood chemistry analyzer
Many conditions, such as this case of geographic tongue, can be diagnosed partly on gross examination, but may be confirmed with tissue pathology.
An anatomical pathology instructor uses a microscope with multiple eyepieces to instruct students in diagnostic microscopy.
This field post-mortem of a ewe has revealed lesions consistent with acute haemolytic pneumonia, possibly due to Pasteurella haemolytica.
A tobacco plant infected with the tobacco mosaic virus

Further divisions in specialty exist on the basis of the involved sample types (comparing, for example, cytopathology, hematopathology, and histopathology), organs (as in renal pathology), and physiological systems (oral pathology), as well as on the basis of the focus of the examination (as with forensic pathology).

Anatomical pathology

Medical specialty that is concerned with the diagnosis of disease based on the macroscopic, microscopic, biochemical, immunologic and molecular examination of organs and tissues.

Histopathology: microscopic appearance of invasive ductal carcinoma of the breast. The slide is stained with Haematoxylin & Eosin.
Histopathology: microscopic appearance of invasive ductal carcinoma of the breast. The slide is stained with an antibody (immunohistochemistry) against the oncogene Her2neu. The dark-brown reaction indicates that this tumor over-expresses this gene.
Cytopathology: microscopic appearance of a Pap test. The pink cell at the center with a large nucleus is abnormal, compatible with low-grade dysplasia.
Autopsy: a brain surrounded by pus (the yellow-greyish coat around the brain, under the dura lifted by the forceps), the result of bacterial meningitis.
Gross examination: appearance of the cut surface of a lung showing the honeycomb pattern of end-stage pulmonary fibrosis.
Gross examination: appearance of a colorectal polyp (the cauliflower-shaped tumor) attached to the colon mucosa (the horizontal line at the bottom).

Anatomical pathology is itself divided in subspecialties, the main ones being surgical pathology (breast, gynecological, endocrine, gastrointestinal, genitourinary, soft tissue, head and neck, dermatopathology), neuropathology, hematopathology cytopathology, and forensic pathology.

Royal College of Pathologists

Professional membership organisation.

Forensic Pathology

Medical examiner

Appointed official in some American jurisdictions who is trained in pathology that investigates deaths that occur under unusual or suspicious circumstances, to perform post-mortem examinations, and in some jurisdictions to initiate inquests.

Medical examiner van

In 1959, the medical subspecialty of forensic pathology was formally certified.

Silent Witness

Title card (2015–2017)

Silent Witness is a British crime drama television series produced by the BBC, which focuses on a team of forensic pathology experts and their investigations into various crimes.


Government or judicial official who is empowered to conduct or order an inquest into the manner or cause of death, and to investigate or confirm the identity of an unknown person who has been found dead within the coroner's jurisdiction.

Coroners, medical examiners, and forensic pathologists are different professions.

Medical jurisprudence

Branch of science and medicine involving the study and application of scientific and medical knowledge to legal problems, such as inquests, and in the field of law.

Autopsy room of the Charité Berlin
Refrigerator in the Forensic Medicine at the Charité Berlin

Forensic medicine, which includes forensic pathology, is a narrower frontline field which involves the collection, documentation, analysis and presentation of objective information (medical evidence) for use in the legal system.

Quincy, M.E.

American mystery medical drama television series from Universal Studios that aired on NBC from October 3, 1976, to May 11, 1983.

Title card
Jack Klugman (right) as Quincy, with co-star Robert Ito as Sam

The series starred Jack Klugman as Dr. Quincy, a resolute, excitable, ethical and highly proficient Medical Examiner (forensic pathologist) for the Los Angeles County Coroner's Office, working to ascertain facts about and reasons for possible suspicious deaths.

American Board of Pathology

One of 24 member boards of the American Board of Medical Specialties.

Forensic Pathology


Morgue worker responsible for handling, moving, and cleaning the corpse.

The autopsy assistant (diener) can be seen holding the head of the cadaver.
A Moravian Church diener serves bread to fellow members of her congregation during the celebration of a lovefeast.

Dieners can advance to positions (such as a forensic morgue technician) and perform tasks of greater complexity and mainly works with a forensic pathologist, over a general pathologist.