Forensic Death Investigation Symposium: Leveraging Research and Development and Technology in the Death Investigation Community

Gregory Davis, associate professor of pathology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, explained that participants in this breakout session identified obstacles to conducting research in forensic death investigation. To overcome those obstacles, the group recommended:

  • Establishing a registry of offices interested in partnering with academic institutes for research.
  • Establishing centers of excellence and partnerships for research that incorporates forensic pathology.
  • Developing model legislation for using tissues collected during an autopsy in research.
  • Establishing a research training program for forensic pathology fellows.
  • Providing mentorship grants and new investigator grants.

Participants listed areas where more research is needed, including:

  • Developments of DNA in the use of molecular autopsy.
  • Searchable databases.
  • Toxicology (e.g., real-time carbon monoxide tests, pharmacogenomics).
  • Phenotypic information for DNA.
  • Human injury tolerance.
  • Internal and external factors that might affect caseload and staffing.

The group identified short- and long-term goals for forensic death investigation research and technology. The short-term goals included:

  • Convening a scientific working group on death investigation to create best practice guidelines.
  • Forming an expert panel to evaluate the utility of available technology.
  • Creating a portal that provides access to all forensic databases.
  • Presenting forensic pathology as a career to medical students, undergraduates and high school students.
  • Offering incentives to draw people to the field, such as loan forgiveness.

Long-term goals included:

  • Establishing centers of excellence or regional centers with the technology to provide services.
  • Having the Centers for Disease Control provide public health training courses for forensic pathologists.
  • Using the National Violent Death Reporting System data (which is available for free) in research projects or grant proposals.

Finally, the group discussed international concerns. Participants noted the need for increased training and mechanisms that allow data to be exchanged across borders. They also suggested looking at research methods coming out of Germany and Bern, Switzerland.

Date Modified: July 6, 2011