Forensic pathology represents a subspecialty within the medical specialty of pathology dealing speciﬁcally with the investigation of sudden, unexpected, and/or violent deaths. The autopsy is central to the practice of forensic pathology.
Forensic anthropology is a subspecialty within the scientiﬁc ﬁeld of physical anthropology (the study of human beings in relation to their physical character); in which forensic anthropologists examine skeletal remains (bones). Forensic anthropologists attempt to answer questions about bones, including questions regarding species of origin (human versus nonhuman), gender, age, race, stature, and nutritional status, existence of disease processes, and the presence and character of skeletal trauma. A forensic pathologist may consult with a forensic anthropologist when attempting to address any of the questions above. A frequent instance of consultation occurs when the forensic pathologist is presented with a badly decomposed or skeletonized corpse that is unidentiﬁed
Forensic entomology is a subspecialty within the biological science discipline of entomology (the study of insects) that primarily deals with insect succession patterns in decomposing human bodies. Evaluation of insects (including larval stages, or maggots) found on decomposing bodies can permit scientiﬁc estimation of the time of death .In certain circumstances; information regarding the location of death may also be ascertained. Forensic pathologists do not consult with forensic entomologists in all decomposed cases, but will consult with them on select cases where estimating the time of death may be very important (for example, in homicides with decomposition and insect activity).
Forensic toxicology is a discipline that involves the identiﬁcation and quantiﬁcation of drugs and other poisons or toxins in body tissues, including blood. “Screening tests” are said to be “qualitative,” where a test is either positive (indicating that the drug/toxin is present) or negative (indicating that the drug/toxin is not present).
When speciﬁc levels of drugs or toxins are determined, the tests are said to be “quantitative.” For a result to have forensic signiﬁcance, two separate methodologies are required, an initial (screening) test, and a conﬁrmatory (quantitative) test. Another function of some toxicology laboratories is drug identiﬁcation. For example, if a bag of white powdery substance is found in the pocket of a dead person, the substance can be submitted to the laboratory for identiﬁcation. Forensic pathologists rely a great deal on the forensic toxicology laboratory. In many jurisdictions, toxicology testing is performed on a majority of the autopsy cases. In a signiﬁcant percentage of forensic autopsy cases, the cause of death is related to the toxicology results.
Forensic psychiatry represents a discipline dealing with the evaluation of the mental state of criminals. Occasionally, forensic pathologists will interact with forensic psychiatrists and police investigators to form a “psychiatric proﬁle” of a suspect in a particular murder or series of murders. A “psychological autopsy” is sometimes necessary when attempting to determine the state of mind of a suicide victim.