Three million pound facility to be the first to offer non-invasive, digital post mortems

By Caribbean Medical News Staff

Three dimensional (3D) technology and a scanner will take the place of the scalpel when the UK’s first digital autopsy centre opens this week. According to researchers and pathologists, this will usher in a new culture and revolution in way post mortems are performed. The facility based in Sheffield, will be the first of 18 planned for throughout England and Wales.

Professor Peter Vanezis, a Home Office consultant forensic pathologist and chief medical officer for iGene, said: “Where there has to be an autopsy, it gets to places where pathologists can’t get to easily, or if they do, they have to mutilate the body quite badly.” This, according to a report in the UK Guardian Newspaper.

According to spokepersons involved, this non-invasive procedure is intended to reduce trauma to those who have lost loved ones and can indeed be faster allowing a body to be released earlier for burial. This is important also from a religious perspective. Some cultures, particularly Muslims and Jews, do not want their loved ones bodies to go through autopsy of part of their religious beliefs and to afford them time for burial under their respective religious rites.

According to reports, “within three-and-a-half minutes of the corpse being placed on the CT scanner, a 3D representation of the body, made up of approximately 3,400 slices of 0.5mm each, is available to the pathologist on a computer screen and saved to a secure file.” Using a virtual scalpel the pathologist can manipulate the images, right to the skeletal system and look inside organs as well.

Tony Simpson, a UK director of iGene, which created the visualisation software, said: “They use virtually the same technique in autopsies now as they used 200 years ago and things have moved …”.

However, some pathologists are not fully convinced saying in situations where blood toxicology or other blood samples are needed, the virtual post mortem could not work. However, they did agree that in certain circumstances, this new era of post mortem procedures could make crime fighting easier and speedier, depending on the circumstances.

The service is not free and is upon the coroner’s agreement. Families will have to pay five hundred pounds except where the coroner suspects that a crime has been committed.

Chief coroner, Peter Thornton QC, will officially open the Sheffield digital autopsy centre, welcomed the technology as “an important aid to ascertaining the cause of death”.

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