European Council of Legal Medicine (ECLM) accreditation of forensic pathology services in Europe

Abstract

Forensic experts play a major role in the legal process as they offer professional expert opinion and evidence within the criminal justice system adjudicating on the innocence or alleged guilt of an accused person. In this respect, medico-legal examination is an essential part of the investigation process, determining in a scientific way the cause(s) and manner of unexpected and/or unnatural death or bringing clinical evidence in case of physical, psychological, or sexual abuse in living people. From a legal perspective, these types of investigation must meet international standards, i.e., it should be independent, effective, and prompt. Ideally, the investigations should be conducted by board-certified experts in forensic medicine, endowed with a solid experience in this field, without any hierarchical relationship with the prosecuting authorities and having access to appropriate facilities in order to provide forensic reports of high quality. In this respect, there is a need for any private or public national or international authority including non-governmental organizations seeking experts qualified in forensic medicine to have at disposal a list of specialists working in accordance with high standards of professional performance within forensic pathology services that have been successfully submitted to an official accreditation/certification process using valid and acceptable criteria. To reach this goal, the National Association of Medical Examiners (NAME) has elaborated an accreditation/certification checklist which should be served as decision-making support to assist inspectors appointed to evaluate applicants. In the same spirit than NAME Accreditation Standards, European Council of Legal Medicine (ECLM) board decided to set up an ad hoc working group with the mission to elaborate an accreditation/certification procedure similar to the NAME’s one but taking into account the realities of forensic medicine practices in Europe and restricted to post-mortem investigations. This accreditation process applies to services and not to individual practitioners by emphasizing policies and procedures rather than professional performance. In addition, the standards to be complied with should be considered as the minimum standards needed to get the recognition of performing and reliable forensic pathology service.

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References

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    National Association of Medical Examiners (2014) NAME Inspection and Accreditation Checklist for Autopsy Services, 1–30

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    Brinkmann B (1999) Harmonisation of medico-legal autopsy rules. Int J Legal Med 113:1–14

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    National Association of Medical Examiners (2014) Inspection and Accreditation Policies and Procedures Manual. NAME Policies and Procedures Manual, 1–22

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    National Association of Medical Examiners (2014) NAME Inspection and Accreditation Checklist, 1–32

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Acknowledgments

The authors and the ECLM board members express their thanks to the officers of NAME and especially to Gregory A. Schmunk and Gregory George Davis for their agreement to let them use the NAME accreditation checklist as template for the ECLM version.

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Correspondence to P. Mangin.

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Mangin, P., Bonbled, F., Väli, M. et al. European Council of Legal Medicine (ECLM) accreditation of forensic pathology services in Europe. Int J Legal Med 129, 395–403 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00414-014-1041-x

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Keywords

  • Accreditation
  • European Council of Legal Medicine
  • Forensic pathology services