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Medico-Legal Death Investigation Systems – The Netherlands


Vidija Soerdjbalie-Maikoe ,

Soerdjbalie Forensic Medical Expertise, SFME, NL
About Vidija

Eurofins_TMFI, The Maastricht Forensic Institute, Maastricht, The Netherlands


Department of Forensic Medicine and Pathology, University of Antwerp, Belgium

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Udo Reijnders

GGD Amsterdam, NL
About Udo
Forensic Medicine Department
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In the European Union (EU), and thus in the Netherlands, human rights are subject to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948), the instruments of the international human rights framework, the Treaty of the European Union (art. 2, 3, 6 and 21) and the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, including the European Convention on Human Rights, which is monitored by the European Court of Human Rights. According to Article 2 of the Convention on Human Rights, the right to life must be protected. As a result countries have criminal law to judge criminal activities like murder and manslaughter. The Dutch criminal justice system and its medico-legal death investigation system follow the so-called Romano-Germanic legal system, which is founded on codified statutes and ordinances. In the Netherlands three different groups of medical doctors are involved in post-mortem investigation, depending on the manner of death, being: the attending physician, the forensic physician and the forensic pathologist. If there is a (possible) unnatural death with a criminal offense, the public prosecutor (or the examining magistrate) will formally seize the body and require a forensic autopsy. This occurs at the stage of preliminary criminal investigation under the authority and lead of the public prosecutor, whereas the police chief is the practical leading investigator. At this stage the role of the examining magistrate is also to monitor the lawful application of investigative powers, the progress of the investigation and to prepare the preliminary investigation for further investigation by the court. As of the final sentence of the court, the public prosecutor or the suspect can appeal. The Court of Law issues a ruling at the end of the handling of a criminal case. Subsequently, appeal in cassation to the Supreme Court is possible when there have been demonstrable procedural errors or new facts have emerged which may affect the case and the earlier ruling. The Supreme Court is the final stage of the legal process.

How to Cite: Soerdjbalie-Maikoe, V. and Reijnders, U., 2022. Medico-Legal Death Investigation Systems – The Netherlands. Sri Lanka Journal of Forensic Medicine, Science & Law, 13, pp.30–32. DOI:
Published on 30 Sep 2022.
Peer Reviewed


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