Forensic examinations

The Department of Forensic Medicine carries out forensic examinations for the police, the courts and other authorities in Denmark, Greenland and the Faeroe Islands

These include:

  • Clinical forensic examinations of alleged victims and suspects in cases concerning assault and rape
  • External medico legal examination and autopsy
  • Alcohol and drugs in the traffic
  • Seized drugs
  • Paternity cases
  • DNA traces from crime scenes
  • Skeletal remains.

Read more about the forensic examinations below.


Who do we examine?
The police typically request a physical clinical forensic examination as part of an investigation of serious crimes such as assault and rape. Depending on the circumstances of the case, the alleged victim, the suspected perpetrator or both will be examined. In cases involving individuals under the age of 18 as well as disabled persons, the social authorities will be informed prior to the examination.

What is the purpose of the examination?
The examination has two purposes:

  • To document all lesions, e.g. bruises, cuts and stab wounds, and issue a statement assessing the relationship between the objective signs of assault and the reported course of events.

  • To secure biological traces for forensic genetic examinations as well as blood and urine samples for the forensic chemical analysis.

    The chemical analysis may be relevant if it is suspected that the alleged victim was drugged, or if the perpetrator may have been under the influence of medications, alcohol or drugs at the time of the offense. In so-called drugrape cases where the alleged victim may have been drugged with narcotics or medications, it can be relevant also to take a hair sample.

    The forensic genetic examination aims to compare DNA profiles of the suspected perpetrator with DNA profiles derived from biological traces, e.g. body fluids or hair, found on the victim's skin or clothing.

    Where and when does the examination take place?
    Some examinations are performed at the Department of Forensic Medicine. Alleged rape victims are examined at the Center for Seksuelle Overgreb, and alleged victims of child abuse are examined at Børnehuset. In some cases, the examinations are performed at a hospital trauma unit. Examinations can be performed 24/7, as the examination should be carried out as soon as possible after the incident.


When a person is found dead in a setting where the police may suspect homicide or other criminal actions, they may choose to perform a crime scene investigation. At the crime scene, the forensic pathologist documents the position and state of the body as well as examines the body for lesions and a possible natural cause death. After the examination, the forensic pathologist prepares  a written report detailing the cause, manner, and time of death.

The forensic pathologist furthermore collects biological traces from the deceased. However, investigating the actual scene and securing technical or biological traces is performed by the police technicians.

In addition to the crime scene investigation, an external medico-legal examination will be performed.


When a person is pronounced dead by a medical doctor, it is always considered whether the death should be reported to the police. The police then decides if a medico-legal external examination should be performed. This may, e.g., be in cases where a crime may be suspected.

At the medico-legal external examination, the forensic pathologist will go through the case documents. These include police reports and medical records from hospitals and the general practitioner. In addition, the external examination of the deceased is carried out and the forensic pathologist decides whether the manner and cause of death can be determined with sufficient certainty. If not, a forensic autopsy is recommended. It is the police who finally decides whether a forensic autopsy should be performed. If the investigation stops after the medico-legal external examination, the forensic pathologist will complete and sign the death certificate. The police then release the body to the funeral services.



An autopsy is an external and internal examination of the deceased. Prior to the autopsy, a CT scan is performed. This examination allows the forensic pathologist to gather information about diseases and/or injuries in the body.

The autopsy begins with an external examination documenting all lesions and signs of disease. Then the internal examination of all organs is performed. If the deceased has been skeletonised, a forensic anthropologist will participate in the autopsy in order to assess skeletal lesions and disease-related changes of the skeleton.

If further examinations of teeth or jaw structures are required, a forensic odontological examination will be performed. In connection with the autopsy, material will be secured for supplementary examinations. This is typically done to examine if the deceased has been affected by alcohol, medications and/or drugs and/or whether a possible perpetrator has left DNA in or on the deceased. Microscopic examinations can detect pathological changes in the organs examined.

On the same day as the autopsy, the police will receive a brief statement with the essential autopsy findings and a preliminary report of the most important findings. This report is later succeeded by an actual autopsy report. When the results of supplementary examinations are available, a supplementary report will state the final conclusion on the cause of death.

The autopsy reports are property of the police and cannot be obtained at the Section of Forensic Pathology. If you have any questions regarding the autopsy, go to the page Information for next-of-kin


When unidentified bodies or human body parts are found, they will be examined at the Department of Forensic Medicine. By a employing a combination of forensic pathological, anthropological, odontological and genetic methods, it is possible to obtain information about gender, age, height, special characteristics and possibly identify the person and the cause of death.

Because Danish law requires dental records to be preserved, identification based on dental information is often an effective and rapid method of identifying unknown deceased persons. If this is not possible, we can use DNA analyses for identification purposes. By comparing the DNA profile of the deceased and the DNA profile of samples from missing persons or DNA profiles from close relatives of the unidentified person, the identity can be established.









Forensic age assessment is performed in cases where the Danish Immigration Service requests an examination to assess the biological age of a person. A representative of the Danish Red Cross and an interpreter participate at the examination.

The assessment consists of three examinations:

  • A clinical examination of the person in order to document complications in relation to earlier, serious disease or trauma.
  • An X-ray examination of the left hand.
  • An odontological assessment of the dental development is made by the forensic odontologist.

The outcome of the three examinations is included in the report by the forensic pathologist stating the probable age of the person and stating the margin of error.




We store and manage an anthropological collection on behalf of a large number of museums in Denmark. The collection is one of the world's largest archaeological skeletal collections and contains human material from the Mesolithic Age and up to the 1800s. We also examine archaeological skeletal material for museums in Denmark.