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Strengthening Forensic Science in the United States: A Path Forward
deaths. Multiple fatality management across jurisdictional lines, such as was needed in response to Hurricane Katrina, is nearly impossible under current conditions, given the absence of medical expertise in some systems, the absence of standards of performance, and the noninteroperability of systems and procedures. The recent infusion of funds to the states through the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is of little assistance when there are no competent systems able or willing to employ those funds. Uniform statewide and interstate standards of operation, consolidation of small systems, regionalization of services, and standardization of staff training are needed to assist in the management of interstate and cross-jurisdictional events. A software program is needed that is universally usable and available, and its use should be promulgated by ME/C systems for multiple fatality management. (See also Chapter 11.)
FORENSIC PATHOLOGY RESEARCH
Currently, little research is being conducted in the areas of death investigation and forensic pathology in the United States. Individual ME/C offices mainly utilize their databases for epidemiological retrospective reviews. Individual forensic pathologists operating in any system carry heavy caseloads and often have no dedicated time, expertise, facilities, or funding for research. Research is further limited because many offices operate training programs independent of university medical schools. Occasionally, a specific case may inspire “litigation research” directed to the elucidation of a specific problem related to a case that is being litigated actively, but this does not replace broad and systematic research of a forensic issue. Few university pathology departments promote basic pathology research in forensic problems such as time of death, injury response and timing, or tissue response to poisoning. In general, research interest often is inspired by a national goal that is funded through grants. A review of the forensic literature for basic research in forensic pathology reveals that efforts are originating largely from Europe, Scandinavia, and Japan. In other countries, universities house a department of legal medicine and/or departments of forensic medicine and pathology where forensic pathologists have the time, expertise, and funding needed to perform basic forensic research.
The Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) requires forensic pathology training programs to provide fellows an opportunity for scholarly research or other scholarly activities.57 These research projects are usually small and limited in scope because of the constraints of a one-year fellowship, legislation that does not permit most basic research