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Post-mortem decision making in sexual femicide cases

Lead Researcher: Abigail Mitchell

Photo of Abigail Mitchell.

Forensic pathologists who perform criminally-suspicious post-mortem examinations are bound by procedures on how to collect forensic evidence (Centre of Forensic Science 2018), but there is still room for discretionary decision-making, particularly in how and where forensic pathologists look for evidence on a victim’s body. The decision-making processes of forensic pathologists during post-mortem examinations can be relevant to prosecutorial outcomes and, therefore, the delivery of justice for sexual femicide victims, making their decision-making processes worth studying.

This study will survey and interview a sample of approximately 20 forensic pathologists in Ontario who are qualified to perform criminally-suspicious post-mortem examinations to determine what factors impact forensic pathologists’ decision-making processes in cases of actual or suspected sexual femicide, and how those factors impact the post-mortem examination process. This improved understanding of forensic pathologists’ decision-making processes will help inform what information is relayed to forensic pathologists by investigators in the future and how evidence is collected and documented during a suspected sexual femicide post-mortem examination, with the purpose of aiding forensic pathologists in completing their vital work.

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