Autopsy,” or “virtopsy,” utilizes multislice computed tomography and magnetic resonance imaging combined with 3-D imaging technology to create vivid images of the interior of the human body.42

The advantages of the virtopsy are that it is not invasive or destructive of tissue and can provide dramatic pictures of skeletal and soft tissue injury. It also provides some information when there is a religious objection to autopsy. Virtopsy has the potential to detect internal bleeding, missile paths, bone and missile fragmentation, fracture patterns, brain contusion, and gas embolism, in addition to occult fractures that are technically difficult to demonstrate during the traditional autopsy. Although a standard forensic autopsy is needed to recover evidence such as bullets or bomb fragments within the body and to collect specimens for testing, virtopsy offers a valuable tool for examination when dissection of the body is not feasible, when evidence is hard to visualize, or when a more complete assessment of injury is desired in noncriminal cases. For example, instead of a simple external examination for an obviously lethal injury in a vehicular violence death, virtopsy would permit more extensive cataloging of the injury to help automotive engineers design safer vehicles. The same technology can enhance bite mark impressions and some patterned injuries. Only a few ME/Cs have access to virtopsy at this time, and very few have the budget to purchase the expensive equipment or to build a suitable facility and staff and maintain it.

Scanning electron microscopy is not new but few ME/Cs have access to it to assist in identifying the metal conductor(s) in electrocution injuries, gunpowder residues in gunshot injuries, and other trace metals on skin or in tissues.

The anthrax bioterrorism attack that occurred in Connecticut, Maryland, New York, Virginia, and Washington, DC, highlighted the need to have biosafety capability for autopsy facilities. Currently, most autopsy facilities are 20 years old, on average, and are outdated in physical plant, technology, and biosafety capability. One-third of them lack design/airflow control of pathogens, and most function at biosafety level 2 rather than level 3.43 Upgrading facilities to handle the potential biohazards associated with bioterrorism will require a massive infusion of funds that localities currently are unable or unwilling to provide. Laboratory safety in an era in which bioterrorism is a real threat remains an ongoing issue.

In-house toxicology services utilizing state-of-the-art equipment are essential for identifying drugs, intoxicants, and poisons and for detecting unsuspected homicides, suicides, and child and elder abuse. Yet only 37



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