The history of death certification is briefly explored before Dr. Zumwalt takes the reader through the modern standard death certificate and how to properly fill out each section. Dr. Zumwalt highlights some common mistakes and includes several "classic" case studies with example death certificates filled out.
The history of death investigation is briefly discussed before Dr. Zumwalt takes the reader through the current medicolegal death investigation system in the United States. Death scene investigation is then touched on, which should culminate in an investigative narrative report.
Dr. Zumwalt discusses how a forensic autopsy differs from a hospital autopsy, what constitutes a complete autopsy, and then describes in technical detail the special dissections that may be required in certain cases. These special dissections include: posterior leg dissection, anterior and posterior neck dissection, face dissection, vertebral artery dissection in situ, certical spine removal layered anterior trunk dissection, anterolateral and posterior rib arc dissection, back dissection, eye and inner ear removal, and spinal cord removal (both anteriorly and posteriorly).
Additional testing is often necessary to establish or confirm the cause and manner of death before, during, or after a competent forensic autopsy. Ancillary testing can include microscopic evaluation or histology, toxicology, postmortem cultures, vitreous humor testing, radiographs, computed tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), metabolic testing, or molecular testing. When a thorough investigation into the circumstances of death, including a medical history and a good scene investigation followed by a complete autopsy does not adequately answer all of the medicolegal questions concerning the death, additional laboratory studies or additional investigation is essential.
Twelve case examples are discussed in this section, which comprises death that are from natural causes, or which on original presentation appeared to be due to natural causes.
This section contains cases in which the death initially appears to be due to an injury or drug-related cause and there doesn't appear to be any intent on the part of the decedent or any other person to cause the death. Ten case examples are presented for the reader.
Nowhere is the manner of death more scrutinized by family or the public than when the opinion or the certifier is that of suicide. Dr. Zumwalt presents five cases in this section where at the beginning of the medicolegal investigation of the deaths appeared most likely to be suicidal.
Twelve cases of probable homicides are presented in this section. While homicide victims probably make up less than 10% of deaths that most forensic pathologists investigate, they have the highest public profile and often require proportionally greater amounts of time to work up, examine, and report than other manners of death.
An undetermined manner of death determination is a natural consequence of an inability to determine the cause of death. This selection of eleven cases deals with deaths in which the manner of death is uncertain.
Total Case Files