The term "autopsy" ("autos" means "self", "opsomei" means "seeing with eyes"), was adopted by medical sciences and is used as a synonym for the dissection of human (and animal) bodies. As implicated by the word itself, in fact even today, the autopsy procedure is a subjective method, and in the conventional forensic investigation process the description of the autopsy results is based on descriptive linguistic techniques. As it is a goal of the virtopsy project to eliminate the subjectivity of "autos" the term "virtopsy" was born, including the two terms "virtual" and "autopsy" but deleting "autos".
Virtual Autopsy was born from the desire to implement new techniques in radiology for the benefit of forensic science. There have been great improvements in MSCT and MRI technology, increasing both contrast and resolution and offering possibilities of 2D and 3D reconstruction.
The aim is to establish an observer independent, objective and reproducible forensic assessment method using modern imaging technology, leading to minimally invasive "virtual" forensic autopsy.
Benefits of Virtual Autopsy
• Uniform Documentation of Findings:
The present-day descriptive, subjective protocolling of autopsy findings can be replaced by a uniform and observer-independent, objective radiological documentation. This will substantially increase the quality of the evidence presented in court by experts. Quality control and expert supervision become possible, as well as forensic "telemedicine" consultation.
• Increased Understandability:
The availability of 2D and 3D Reconstructions will impressively improve the clarity and, consequently, the understandability of future experts' evidence. This will play an important role in the acceptance of the evidence.
• Alternative for cultures where conventional autopsy is forbidden
Virtual autopsy will allow for medico-legal examinations in cultural circles where a conventional autopsy is stigmatized or even forbidden. Last but not least, the method could be useful in the examination of highly infectious bodies.