Volume 38, Issue 3 (May 1993)
Forensic Autopsies in Italy
In Italy, forensic autopsies are performed under one of two different statutes. Judicial autopsies are requested by the prosecutor or by the court; and nonjudicial forensic autopsies are done under a special statute whenever a proper death certificate was not filed by a treating physician.
Judicial autopsies are performed by doctors chosen from a special list, after a basic check on their training and competence, on a case-by-case basis. A fee of some $350 is paid, by the Ministry of Justice, to the doctor for each case. As we have had an adversarial trial system, since 1989, we also have “adversarial autopsies” and the prosecutor, the defendant and the victim's next of kin each can appoint a forensic pathologist as a consultant to stand in at the autopsy and discuss the case. These forensic pathologists will testify in court as expert witnesses
Nonjudicial autopsies, which are regulated by the National Health Service, are usually only performed by forensic pathologists in large urban areas. Elsewhere they are often omitted for lack of qualified physicians.
In this article, we discuss some of the practical and legal problems arising from both the new Italian criminal procedure and the National Health Service Regulation, stressing the need to study different systems, including the medical examiner system, in order to improve the quality of forensic medical investigations.