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Medico-Legal Death Investigation Systems – Belgium

Authors:

Werner Jacobs ,

University of Antwerp, BE
About Werner

Department of Forensic Medicine and Pathology

 

Military Hospital Queen Astrid, Belgium

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Babette van Rafelghem,

University of Antwerp, BE
About Babette
Department of Forensic Medicine and Pathology
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Alexia van Goethem

University of Antwerp, BE
About Alexia
Department of Forensic Medicine and Pathology
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Abstract

The Belgian criminal justice system, and hence its death investigation system, is based on the French Code Napoléon from 1808. It is characterized by an inquisitory (secret) nature being mostly led by an investigating judge. Most deaths are certified (so-called Model IIIc) by general physicians with very limited forensic knowledge or experience. There are no legal restrictions as to which physician can certify any death. Only when the nature of death is considered ‘suspicious’ or ‘violent’ by these physicians, the public prosecutor will ask for a more in-depth investigation by a doctor trained in forensic medicine. If necessary, a forensic autopsy will be commissioned by an investigating judge who investigates both à charge et à décharge. Overall the autopsy rate (forensic and clinical) is low in Belgium (estimated up to 1-2% of +/- 110.000 annual deaths).

 

Residency training and specialization in forensic medicine takes 5 years and the candidates are trained both in clinical forensic medicine and forensic pathology (regulated by the Ministerial Decree of February 27th 2002).

How to Cite: Jacobs, W., van Rafelghem, B. and van Goethem, A., 2022. Medico-Legal Death Investigation Systems – Belgium. Sri Lanka Journal of Forensic Medicine, Science & Law, 13, pp.8–10. DOI: http://doi.org/10.4038/sljfmsl.v13i0.7912
Published on 30 Sep 2022.
Peer Reviewed

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