The primary tool of forensic medicine has always been the autopsy. Frequently used for identification of the dead, autopsies may also be conducted to determine the cause of death. In cases of death caused by a weapon, for example, the forensic pathologist - by examining the wound - can often provide detailed information about the type of weapon used as well as important contextual information. (In a death by gunshot, for example, he can determine with reasonable accuracy the range and angle of fire.) Forensic medicine is a major factor in the identification of victims of disaster, such as landslide or plane crash.
Forensic medicine is one of the largest and most important areas of forensic science. Also called legal medicine or medical jurisprudence, it applies medical knowledge to criminal and civil law. Areas of medicine that are commonly involved in forensic medicine are anatomy, pathology, and psychiatry.
Medical jurisprudence or forensic medicine, the application of medical science to legal problems. It is typically involved in cases concerning blood relationship, mental illness, injury, or death resulting from violence. Autopsy is often used to determine the cause of death, particularly in cases where foul play is suspected. Post-mortem examination can determine not only the immediate agent of death (e.g. gunshot wound, poison), but may also yield important contextual information, such as how long the person has been dead, which can help trace the killing. Forensic medicine has also become increasingly important in cases involving rape. Modern techniques use such specimens as semen, blood, and hair samples of the criminal found in the victims bodies, which can be compared to the defendants genetic makeup through a technique known as DNA fingerprinting; this technique may also be used to identify the body of a victim. The establishment of serious mental illness by a licensed psychologist can be used in demonstrating incompetency to stand trial, a technique which may be used in the insanity defense. The synonym of forensic medicine is forensic pathology.