Forensic Pathology

Goals and Objectives

During training, each resident will master the following skills:

Patient Care

  • Demonstrate uncompromising respect for human remains and foster this attitude among other personnel.
  • Demonstrate suitable diagnostic skills using both gross and microscopic materials from cases showing common accidental, suicidal, and homicidal causes of death.

Medical Knowledge

  • Know the differences between a cause of death, a mechanism of death, and a manner of death.
  • Formulate the cause of death including the underlying cause of death, intervening causes of death, if any, and the immediate cause of death, as well as any other conditions contributing to death.

Practice-Based Learning and Improvement

  • Learn proper techniques for photography, documentation and collection of samples from clothing and the body surface for use as evidence.
  • Learn proper procedures for retrieving projectiles at autopsy to preserve their value as ballistic evidence.
  • Learn proper techniques used for sampling fluids and tissues for forensic toxicology.

Interpersonal and Communication Skills

Screen a chart or interview a caregiver to extract relevant information and to identify cases falling under the jurisdiction of a Medical Examiner.


Develop the ability to objectively evaluate anatomic evidence without emotional involvement.Evidence appropriate respect for confidentiality of informationDemonstrate uncompromising respect for human remains and foster this attitude among other personnel.

Systems-Based Practice

  • Understand the authority of a Medical Examiner to claim jurisdiction over an autopsy as defined by O.R.C. §313:11-12.
  • Visit the office of the Medical Examiner to gain familiarity with technical differences between autopsies performed in Medical Examiner's cases and hospital cases by witnessing and assisting to the extent possible in the prosection of Medical Examiner's autopsies.
  • Understand the procedures required for legal evidence to document chain of custody.


Instruction in forensic pathology is divided into several components. The core of the didactic training is provided by members of the Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner's Office as a series of lectures distributed over the training of the Resident. The core experience in forensic pathology takes place at the Medical Examiner's Office. Residents visiting the Medical Examiner's Office attend the morning Staff meeting when autopsies are planned for the day. After the staff meeting, the Resident attends one or more of the available autopsies which are usually conducted during the morning. Finally, more intensive exposure to forensic pathology is available to Residents in the form of a one month elective rotation.

Duties and Responsibilities of Residents by Year

  • Residents attend morning viewing with Medical Examiner and Deputy Medical Examiners and participate in autopsy prosection with Deputy Coroners.
  • Rotate in Trace Evidence and Forensic Toxicology.
  • Attend crime scene investigations and court appearances if possible.

Because of the sensitive nature of the medicolegal cases handled by the Medical Examiner's office, the role of Residents in the day to day operations at the Medical Examiner's Office is limited to observation only.

The role of the Resident, therefore, does not change on a year-to-year basis.

Supervision and Evaluation

Residents participating in regular visitation of the Medical Examiner's autopsies are supervised by the Medical Examiner's Staff.