In order to find the exact course of death and to do justice to the dead, forensic pathology is needed to perform the autopsy. An autopsy is defined as the examination of a person body after death, with a view to search primarily for the cause of death. Forensic can mean anything that relates to the law. Pathology can be described as the study of diseases. Forensic pathology can be defined as anything that causes some malfunction in the human being and there is a legal problem that needs to be solved in order to find the causes of death. Forensic pathology can also be called medical-legal pathology which is the forensic medicine that applies medical science to the field of forensic or to the law.
It is important to understand the requirements needed in order to perform the work of a forensic pathology. On the other hand, is important to understand the personal characteristics Skills, Knowledge, Attributes and Other characteristics (KSAO) needed for the job. The same goes for the task, duties and responsibilities of the position that an individual must perform. Job description and job specification are essentially important in order to hire the right person for the right job at the right time in the place without any unnecessary cost. Knowing the right procedures on how to recruit and select applicants for the job is very important to avoid hiring the wrong people for the job. All of this will be discussed throughout this paper.
2. TASK PERFORMED
The job of being a forensic pathologist involves two main tasks which are performing autopsies and testifying in court. In most cases, the forensic pathologist works for the state and perform the autopsies in order to help with relevant cases. The justice system partly relies on the forensic pathology department to give answers in most cases mostly criminal cases. The tasks performed by the forensic pathologist are both complex and challenging.
2.1 Performing Autopsy
An autopsy is the medical examination of a dead body to determine the cause of death. There are two types of the autopsy, namely forensic and clinical. Clinical autopsies are performed for the purpose of research, medical training or at the request of the deceased family. Forensic autopsies are often used for legal reasons, potentially as evidence in criminal or civil cases. For this paper, the focus will be on forensic autopsies.
All legally investigated death falls into 5 categories, namely: natural, accident, homicide, suicide and undetermined death. Forensic pathologists are physicians trained to perform autopsies.
Forensic pathologists gather information about the dead body, death and medical records. Then they record an external exam of the individual appearance by autographing the body inside a body bag noting the clothing and its position before striping the body naked. They try to establish the identity, ethnicity, gender, age, hair and eye colour. Then they collect samples of hair, fingernail, or any other form of objects found in the body. Once the external exam is done, they clean the body, weigh and measure it. For a complete internal exam, they start with the chest by removing all the organs out of the chest. The organs of the dead body then examined and weighed with samples slices taken of the tissue. If the examiners need a piece of a sample in the brain, they will cut off the skull to get the sample they want. Once the pathologists have acquired the results from the samples they will write a detailed report for the official record.
2.2 Testifying In Court
Forensic pathologist testifies in court in order to present the results or evidence that has been found during an autopsy in relation to the cause and time of death. The testimonies in court are when the professional reveals the findings according to the case involved. The duties of the forensic pathologist involve the professional being unbiased in his/her testimonies and using only scientific knowledge to reveal the truth whether it leads to a conviction of an individual or not. This part of the job shows how the forensic pathologist fit into the justice system.
3. DUTIES AND RESPONSIBILITY
Forensic pathologists perform autopsies and collect biological samples in order to inform criminal investigations with the causes of death for the deceased body. Their focus is more on various tissues, looking for the cause of death and advising prosecution, defence or attending court cases to provide evidence based on the results they found on the deceased body.
4. PERSONAL CHARACTERISTICS (KSAO) NEEDED
There are certain characteristics needed in order for an individual to be successful in the career of forensic pathology which is namely the knowledge, skills, attribute and other characteristics. Firstly the candidate will have to be interested in the field of science from a young age and not only interest but also competence. The candidate will also need good communication skills and interpersonal skills, knowing how to engage with the team in order to complete daily tasks successfully. The candidate must develop a thick skin to protect him/herself from the external pressures that come with this type of career. Having a strong stomach will also help the candidate with the gruesome part of this job, dealing with dead bodies. The job also requires the individual to possess skills of having the mind of a detective. Lastly, the job will require the individual to be patient and be able to work in a team as the saying says no man is an island.
4.1 Interested In the Field Of Science
An individual interested in obtaining a job as a forensic pathology must have an interest in science/physics, chemistry and biology or physiology. This will mean that while still in high school the interested candidate must have chosen these modules and was able to attain acceptable and desirable marks. The love for the field of science must be an exceptional one. This is important because the candidate will use scientific knowledge for the rest of his/her career in forensic pathology.
4.2 Good Communications and Interpersonal Skills
A good communication and interpersonal skills are very important attribute to have as forensic pathologists spend most of their time writing reports and testifying in courts. Sometimes they have to deal with the family of the deceased to get more info on the deceased, so dealing with grieving people need a very strong interpersonal skill.
4.3 Have a Thick Skin
This kind of a career will expose the individual in the public eye more especially to the media. The individual will have to testify on high profile cases and the media will try to question the individual’s credibility on the cases. The individual must be able to stand his/her ground and trust his/her scientific knowledge and withstand the pressure from the public. The job of a forensic pathologist will cause the individual to accumulate enemies along the way as not everyone will agree with the professional’s findings mostly people too close to the cases like grieving families and investigating officers. A typical example of these cases is the case of suicide of a wealthy man and the beautiful young stepmother is suspected by the children for poisoning their father if the autopsy results prove different the children might not take the findings as legit.
4.4 Have a Strong Stomach
The duties of a forensic pathologist will require someone who has a strong stomach. The thought of handling a corps is already a difficult task on its own but the job requires more than that. This job will require the individual to handle corpses that are no longer is acceptable conditions like rotten with crawling maggots, dismembered, and burnt even beyond recognition. This kind of job is one of the most disgusting but one that is very important and someone has to do it.
4.5 Have the Mind of a Detective
On execution of the forensic pathologist’s duties comes a big responsibility to expose the guilty. The forensic pathologist will have to use his/her inner detective instincts. A lot of people will think they can deceive and get away with murder but it is up to the professional use the learned scientific knowledge to bring justice to grieving families and for the responsible people to pay for their debts. The other departments within the justice system will try and overlook the expert’s knowledge and it is up to the forensic pathologists to make sure that they respect and value his/her scientific expertise.
The tasks of the job will require accuracy at all times. The individual has no room for slip-ups. The forensic must take his/her time in order to give accurate and reliable results. The pace of the justice system is usually slow but sometimes the state might need the autopsy results in way sooner than the individual is able to present accurate results. It is up to the forensic pathologist to always give accurate and reliable results whether the process is time-consuming, good this comes to those who wait.
As a forensic pathologist, the candidate will not be an island. The forensic pathologist works in a team environment. The section of forensic pathology is one piece of a big department, the justice department. The forensic pathologist needs to be a team player in order to bring about the good result and reach the objective which is justice. The forensic pathology must be a team player even if other members of his/her team is not. Professionalism at all time is a crucial necessity in this job as one slip up my case the wrong person to be convicted or may give false closer to the grieving family.
5. REQUIREMENTS NEEDED TO BECOME FORENSIC PATHOLOGY
Training to become a forensic pathology is a very long, difficult but exciting process. An individual must complete a 4-year undergraduate education. An individual must obtain a 4-year degree in medical school to become a physician. Later to obtain 3-5 years of residency training program in pathology to be qualified to take the Board exams in pathology. 1-2 years of forensic pathology fellowship, to be qualified to take the subspecialty Board exam in forensic pathology.
6.1 Sources of Recruitment
There are two sources of recruitment namely internal and external sources of recruitment. Internal recruitment is more concentrated in recruiting the employees within the organisation. The external recruitment is about recruiting people outside of the organisation. Filling a vacancy of a forensic pathologist will require the external form of recruitment. This job will require an external recruitment because of the scarcity nature of it. Head-hunting recruitment is mostly used to recruit candidates for this kind of job as it requires top professional people with high qualifications, experience and skills, more especially when the post of a kind of emergency.
The advertisement is one of the crucial recruitment methods used. The use of media is an important part of getting the information about a job to relevant people. The type of media that can be used for the advertisement of this post would be on newspapers such as Mail & Guardian, Job Mail and the use of internet and technical journals. The job of a forensic will require trade and professionals journal which are the most suitable way to attract the specialised employees or professionals. An example of an advertisement in this post would be as follows:
• The Western Cape Department of Health is looking for a candidate to fill in a post of a forensic pathologist.
• 4 years of the undergraduate degree
• 4 years of medical school to obtain the degree in pathology (MD)
• 4 to 5 years of residency to be qualified to take the Board exams in pathology
• 1 to 2 of forensic pathology fellowship to be able to write Board exams in forensic pathology
Duties and Responsibilities:
• Performing autopsies
• Testifying in court
The successful candidate must have:
• Good communication and interpersonal skills
• Must have interest in the field of science
• Must possess have a thick skin
• Should have a mind of a detective
• Must have patience
• Must be able to work in a team environment
• Must have a strong stomach
• R1 038 462.00
If you are interested and meet the requirements feel free to submit a CV of a minimum of two pages. All successful candidates will be contacted.
The candidate screening is very important for it leads to quality decisions to improve organisational performance. Screening includes criminal record check and behaviours such as absenteeism to reduce unwanted behaviours at work such as people using organisational resources for their own benefit. When screening for the position of forensic pathologist candidates will be screened on criminal record as they will be working on criminal cases and they need to have a reliable influence on the findings. State vacancies in most cases will require a criminal record check. The screening process will lead to fairness and shortlisting of candidates.