Glossary of Terms

Accident - due to injury when there is no evidence of intent to harm.

Autopsy - known as a post-mortem examination, necropsy (particularly as to non-human bodies), autopsia cadaverum, or obduction — is a highly specialized surgical procedure that consists of a thorough examination of a corpse to determine the cause and manner of death and to evaluate any disease or injury that may be present. It is usually performed by a specialized medical doctor called a pathologist.

Biological specimens - blood, sections of organs, vitreous, bile, and urine.

Cause of death - an injury or disease that ultimately leads to death of the individual, generally determined by medical examiners or coroners.

Chain of custody - a method of keeping track of who has handled a piece of evidence and when.

Coroner – an elected public official whose principal duty is to inquire into any death.

Decomposition - the disintegration of body tissues after death.

Evidence - any physical items such as bullets, hairs, fibers, biological fluids, etc., documents and statements that are included in a legal investigation for the jury’s or judge’s consideration in the determination of an individual’s guilt or innocence.

Forensic pathologist - A medical doctor who specializes in the sub-specialty of pathology that focuses on determining the cause of death by examining a corpse. The autopsy is performed by the pathologist usually during the investigation of criminal law cases and civil law cases in some jurisdictions.

Forensic Science - the application of all forms of science to aid legal investigations.

Homicide - due to a volitional act of another person.

Indigency - the lack of ability to pay as a legal reason for having certain required fees waived; being declared eligible for free services.

Manner of death - is how the death came about. The manners are natural, homicide, suicide, accident, and undetermined.

Medical examiner - is a medically qualified forensic pathologist and government official whose duty is to investigate deaths and injuries that occur under unusual or suspicious circumstances, to perform post-mortem examinations, and in some jurisdictions to initiate inquests.

Natural - due entirely (or nearly so) to natural disease processes.

Next of Kin - Nearest relative: if married, the spouse, if no spouse then adult children, or surviving parents, or blood relative, unless otherwise specified in a legal document.

Suicide - the act or an instance of taking one's own life voluntarily and intentionally

Toxicology – postmortem (after death) toxicology analyzes biological specimens collected at autopsy for the presence of drugs, toxins, and poisons to help determine cause and manner of death.

Undetermined - inadequate information regarding the circumstances of death to determine manner.