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FPA5001 - Ethical and legal issues in forensic pathology

6 points, SCA Band 2, 0.125 EFTSL

Postgraduate Faculty of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences

Leader: Dr Matthew Lynch


Clayton First semester 2007 (Off-campus)
Clayton Second semester 2007 (Off-campus)


Forensic pathologists need to understand the legal system in which they are operating. This includes: Sources of law; Fundamental legal principles; Burden of proof; what constitutes an offence and issues such as Police prosecutorial practice.
It is also essential for Forensic pathologists to understand the ethical underpinnings of their work. Serious conflicts of interest can arise which may influence the independence of a forensic pathologists obligations. (i.e.: where an investigation of a death is perceived or is attributable to being perpetrated by the State). The fundamental principles of medical ethics can assist to ensure proper administration of justice in these instances.


To develop an awareness and understanding of the ideas and issues in medical ethics as they apply to the practice of forensic pathology.
To develop the student's knowledge and understanding of relevant areas of the law so that in practice their contribution to the justice system is optimal.
Demonstrate a familiarity with the vocabulary and ideas used in discourse on medical ethics.
Comprehend the issues associated with the practice of forensic pathology.
Demonstrate an understanding of the principles of the law and the legal system in Australian and other countries.
Show familiarity with the criminal law (offences against the person), policing and prosecutorial practice (with reference to both Australia and Overseas.)
Discuss and evaluate relevant issues in medical ethics and be able to contextualize them with reference to their own place of practice.
Incorporate knowledge of the areas of law in to the types of observations and opinions made in forensic pathology practice.
As an integral part of their role, forensic pathologists are required to have an understanding of the legal system in which they are operating, including sources of law, and fundamental legal principles and concepts such as burdens of proof and what constitutes an offence. Other practical issues such as police and prosecturial practices must also be familiar to ensure the forensic pathologist's participation in the legal system is effective. It is also essential for forensic pathologists to have a thorough understanding of the ethical underpinnings for their work. These are important in establishing and maintaining a responsible and reputable forensic pathology service.


Case book 1500 words (30%), Assignment 2000 words (40%), Oral presentation (30%).

Off Campus Attendance Requirements

Tutorial and workshop time practical component will be conducted at the beginning of the second year of the course when students will be on-campus at VIFM.


Ethics Medicine and the Law FOR1003