Q: I want to know about forensic pathology and its career options. Also, could you suggest any colleges around the globe where you could study this?
Forensic pathology is a branch of medicine used for legal purposes wherein an autopsy is done on the corpse to determine the cause of death. This is usually done at the request of a coroner for people who have died under suspicious circumstances – suicides, homicides, asphyxiation, trauma, accidents, sexual assault or deaths in custody. So if you are passionate about medicine and also have an interest and penchant for investigation, forensic pathology may be the right career for you.
Unlike other fields of medicine the forensic pathologist investigates deaths not necessarily caused by illness or disease but by other people. Their findings and conclusions are vital for the judiciary and very often forensic pathologists are asked to explain their findings to the jury.
Unlike a forensic scientist who analyses physical evidence for clues to a crime scene, a forensic pathologist does an autopsy to determine the manner and cause of death. This requires the pathologist to be a qualified doctor who has then specialised in this field. Forensic scientists on the other hand need not be qualified doctors and normally possess a degree in forensic sciences or another natural science subject like biology, chemistry or physics.
The study of how the human tissue reacts to temperature, chemical imbalance, oxygen deficiency and other forms of damage can be critical in determining not only the cause of death but also the chronological sequence of events leading to the death. This field of study is known as histopathology and is a basic subject required to be studied to qualify as a forensic pathologist.
A forensic pathologist is akin to a super specialisation and demands years of work after becoming a doctor – you would need to complete a fellowship, residency and internship after graduating from medical school. So be prepared for a long haul.
University of Michigan, New York University, St. Louis, Alabama are some the better known Universities offering courses in forensic pathology. Across the Atlantic, you have Dundee, Manchester, Glasgow and Kings College among others.
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