Medico legal autopsy refers special examination of a dead body carried out under laws of stats for security of its citizens. A medico legal autopsy is different from a clinical autopsy. a clinical autopsy is performed by a pathologist to know about the depth of the disease.
The medico legal autopsy is performed for determining following data.
1. Cause of death whether natural or unnatural, whether it is a case of murder, suicide or accident specially in case of unnatural deaths, or to know about any natural disease of the dead.
2. To find any injury and cause of injury; adding or excluding any contributory factors to the death. Specially in case of infanticide ( refers murder of a newborn baby ), to decide wether the baby was born alive on the basis of the features indicating a live infant.
3. And the medico-legal expert testimony, to be used for the purpose of court, law etc
There are many important aspects of a medico legal autopsy. In case of unnatural deaths where the medical cause of a sudden death is not certain are subject to an inquiry, such an inquiry is usually done with the help of medical examiner ( a Doctor ). in many such cases postmortem examination is very necessary to ascertain the cause of death, i-e suicidal, homicidal or accidental and many times it is required to be done without the consent of relative for the purpose of protection of other citizens.
The procedure begins with careful external examination for any findings of injury. During external examination the postmortem lividity (characteristic postmortem change in colour in dependent parts of the body) is noted down, the usual color of postmortem lividity varies from bluish pink to bluish purple. Lividity colour changes may indicate a specific cause of death. Examples are black colour in case of opium poisoning, bright cherry red colour in carbon monoxide poisoning and faint bluish pink for anemia.
Postmortem lividity also provides valuable information about the times since death, usually it develops completely in about six to eight hours after death. It also gives some clues about the position of body at the time of death because it develops in dependent part of the body.
The external examination is followed by careful internal examination that is possible after a suitable incision. Usual types of incision includes ‘ I shape’ (from chin to pubic symphysis) , Y shaped (from both sides of neck to pubic symphysis) and modified Y shaped incision ( from each armpit to xiphisternum passing beneath the breast and than to pubic symphysis). All of the organs are usually separated for examination. But sometimes the abdominal organs are all removed together for examination and same is done for chest organs.The great vessels are tied and brain is first studied in situ and than separated for further analysis.Spinal cord examination in necessary in case of suspected spinal injury, strychnine poisoning, epileptic stats or when there is no well known medical cause of death.
Organs are thoroughly examined before dissection and necessary specimen are saved for further analysis.Blood supply, lymphatics, nerve supply and general condition of each organ is recorded. At the end all the organs are placed properly and body is stitched properly and efforts are done to hide the marks of autopsy if present. Body is properly clothed and handed over to the police or other authorities who brought it for postmortem examination.
A medico legal autopsy may provide valuable information about identity, age, race, sex, cause of death and time since death of deceased. This information is specifically important for the identification of mutilated dead bodies in case of mass disasters like blasts and fires etc.
Many organs and other specimens are also sent for laboratory analyse also. After getting all the Lab reports a special report is prepared which includes all of the findings observed during examination, all lab reports, suggesting cause of death if any with a brief summary of case.