Forensic Medicine: Case 1

Edinburgh City Mortuary. Photo featured in article by Douglas Walker in ‘The Sun’, 2016. Available at:


For the purposes of this case study, imagine that you are the forensic histopathology trainee who has been set the task of formulating a likely cause of death.


Circumstances of Death Part 1 of 10

Police were called to the address of Joanne Samson, a 34 year old female, at approximately 11:45 on 12th April.

Following their inquiries, you have been provided with a copy of the police ‘Sudden Death Report’, as follows:

Intravenous drug use paraphernalia found in the Deceased’s kitchen

Controlled Substances Part 2 of 10

Take a moment to familiarise yourself with some of the controlled substances in the United Kingdom (UK) and their effects.

Click HERE to see a summary of  controlled substances in the UK.

General Practioner (GP) Summary Part 3 of 10

Post Mortem: External Examination Part 4 of 10

The body was identified as being that of the above Deceased by a body tag attached to the right wrist. The body was also formally identified in person by the following:

  1. Calum McPherson (Boyfriend)
  2. PC Daniel McBride (Present at locus, Police Scotland)
  3. PC Gabrielle Smith (Present at locus, Police Scotland)

External Examination

The body is that of an adult woman of average build, 63kg and 170cm (Body Mass Index: 21.8). Rigor mortis was established.

Click on the diagram to reveal the post mortem findings


Post Mortem: Internal Examination Part 5 of 10

Click on the diagram below to reveal the post mortem findings

Preliminary Cause of Death Part 6 of 10

You have taken a number of samples, including tissue samples for histology and a sample of ilio-femoral blood, urine and vitreous humour for toxicological analysis.

In the interim, there is no evidence that this is a suspicious death and so you issue a death certificate as follows:

1a     Unascertained, pending laboratory studies

This means that the body of the Deceased can be released to the family while investigations are pending, which could take some time.

Histology Part 7 of 10

A number of weeks have passed and you now have access to the histology sections.

Toxicology Part 8 of 10

Death Certificate Part 9 of 10

Have a think about what you might write for a death certificate and then have a look at some of the examples in the quiz below and decide whether these are accurate representations of the cause of death in this case.

For general helpful guidance on how to complete a MCCD, please refer to:

Summary of Findings Part 10 of 10


Taking all of this into consideration…