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The roles of medical examiners in the COVID-19 era: a comparison between the United States and Italy

NCJ Number
Forensic Science Medicine and Pathology Volume: 17 Issue: 2 Dated: 2021 Pages: 262-270
M. Moretti; et al
Date Published
9 pages

This article addresses issues concerning general medical examiner/coroner organization, comparing the Italian and American systems, and it also discusses the pivotal roles of forensic pathologists in informing infectious disease surveillance and focuses on the impact of COVID-19 emergency on medicolegal practices in Italy and the United States, as well as the responses of the forensic scientific community to the emerging concerns related to the pandemic.



Italy and the United States are two of the countries most affected by SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19), with more than 240,760 confirmed cases in Italy and 2,699,658 in the United States (as of July 2, 2020). The current COVID-19 pandemic has led to substantial changes in many fields of medicine, specifically in the forensic discipline. Medicolegal activities related to conducting autopsies have been largely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Postmortem examinations are generally discouraged by government regulations due to the risk of spreading the disease further through the handling and dissection of bodies from patients who succumbed to COVID-19 infection. There is a paucity of data regarding the persistence of SARS-CoV-2 in bodies, as well as concerning the reliability of swabbing methods in human remains. On the other hand, the autopsy is an essential tool to provide necessary information about the pathophysiology of the disease that presents useful clinical and epidemiological insights. We believe that stronger efforts by authorities are necessary to facilitate completing postmortem examinations, as data derived from such assessments are expected to be paramount to improving patient management and disease prevention. (Publisher Abstract)