Examining the living – University of Copenhagen

Examining the living

Examining alleged victims

When we examine alleged victims of assaults the forensic pathologist checks for damaged clothing and traces of blood, semen, soil, etc in addition to the physical medical examination of the victim, when any lesions are noted. At the end of the physical examination we collect material (such as blood or urine samples) for analysis by forensic geneticists and forensic chemists.

Alleged rape victims and children in cases of suspected sexual assault are examined in cooperation with staff from the Centre for Victims of Sexual Assault, Rigshospitalet.

Alleged victims of torture undergo a thorough physical examination. In many cases this is supplemented by more specialised tests such as skeletal X-rays, dental examinations, neurological and forensic psychiatric examinations.

Examining alleged criminals

In cases of unlawful killing, physical and sexual assault, suspects may be examined for traces linking them to the incident under investigation. This examination also secures any biological trace evidence that may help to identify the perpetrator.

Drug crime suspects may be subjected to cavity searches. The suspect’s body orifices will be checked for concealed illegal drugs. In many cases X-rays help to detect containers the suspect may have swallowed.

Age evaluation

Young people such as asylum seekers whose age cannot be proved by documentation may undergo an examination to determine how old they probably are. This applies to the 15 to 25 year age group in particular.

The examination is in three parts. It starts with a physical examination of the body to determine maturity. The doctor uses the subject’s build and other signs of physical development to form an impression. This impression is collated an examination of X-rays of the bones of the hand and wrist and a dentist’s assessment of the maturity of the subject’s teeth, also based on X-rays.

The three examinations are combined into a statement drawn up by the forensic pathologist stating the probable age of the subject and stating the margin of error.