Death Investigation: Systems and Procedures, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Death Investigation

Systems and Procedures, 1st Edition

By Randy Hanzlick, M.D.

CRC Press

184 pages | 26 B/W Illus.

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Death Investigation: Systems and Procedures is the first book dedicated to the topic of death investigation from a legal standpoint as well as the administrative and operational procedures that pertain to the medical examiner and the coroner system in the United States. Unique in its perspective, this book is the only one not concerned with instructing on investigatory conduct, autopsy procedure, pathology, or the solving of crimes. Instead, it explains the concepts and principles of death investigation established by governments, and outlines the legal and administrative steps that must be taken throughout the case.

Beginning with an introduction to the basic types of death investigation, the text explains the circumstances and statutory basis for death investigation systems. The author provides specific details about the role of coroners, medical examiners, and other forensic scientists and personnel who may officially be a part of the investigation. The overall goals of the investigations are included along with case studies and examples illustrating the procedures used in each type. The author also adds a brief summary of the specific system employed by each state. A considerable portion of the book is devoted to practical considerations such as the contents of the autopsy report, the death certificate, principles and issues related to evidence and expert witnesses, as well as a description of a typical day at a medical examiner's or coroner's office.

Well referenced with websites and sources of further information, Death Investigation: Systems and Procedures provides a comprehensive, concise procedural reference to students and professionals including lawyers, crime scene technicians, and anyone who works with death investigation data, or within the death investigation systems in the United States.


"A great read. Very informative."

– In Journal of the American Association of Forensic Dentists, April-June 2008

Table of Contents

General Aspects of Death Investigation

Why Know about Death Investigation?

What Is a Death Investigation?

Initial Collection of Information

Scene Investigation

Examination of the Body

Ancillary Investigations

Report Preparation

Basic Types of Death Investigation

Medicolegal Death Investigation

Institution-Based Death Investigation

Private Death Investigation

Public Health Death Investigations

Who Actually Performs Death Investigations?

The State and Local Nature of Medicolegal Death Investigation

Where Are Death Investigations Conducted?

How Death Investigations Are Funded

More on the People Who Investigate

Forensic Pathologists


Medical Examiners

Death Investigators

Who Controls the Scene of Death?

Forensic Scientists

Goals of Death Investigations

Basic Goals of Medicolegal Death Investigation

Goals of Institution-Based and Private Death Investigations

Examples of Death Investigations by Type

A Typical Institution-Based Death Investigation

A Typical Private Death Investigation

A Typical Medicolegal Death Investigation

Death Investigation: The Rake Analogy

Specific Features of Medicolegal Death Investigations

What Types of Deaths Are Reportable to the Medical Examiner or Coroner?

Examples of Medicolegal Death Investigation Systems

Types of Medicolegal Death Investigation by State

Special Circumstances

What about Mass Fatality Incidents?

Deaths on Indian Reservations or Federal Property

Other Death Investigation Topics

Who May Give Permission for an Autopsy?

The Autopsy Report

The Death Certificate


Death Investigation and Funeral Arrangements

Principles of Evidence

What Is an Expert?

What If You Disagree?

Death Investigation and Insurance Policies

Classic Dilemmas in Death Investigation

Professional Death Investigation Organizations

Access to Death Investigation Information

Pronouncement of Death

Deaths in Custody and Public Institutions

Criminal and Civil Law Issues

Sample Autopsy Report

Reason for Performing an Examination

Date and Time of Examination

Postmortem x-rays

Presentation, Clothing, and Personal Effects

Features of Identification

Diagnostic and Therapeutic Artifacts

Postmortem Changes

External Examination

Internal Examination

Chest and Abdomen

Cardiovascular System

Respiratory System

Gastrointestinal System

Hepatobiliary System

Urogenital System

Reticuloendothelial System

Musculoskeletal System

Endocrine System



Report of Histologic Sections

Other Procedures

Final Assessment

Clinical Information

Autopsy Findings

A Day at the Medical Examiner's Office

Further Reading

Useful Web Sites


Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
LAW / Forensic Science