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Medico-Legal Death Investigation Systems – Poland


Anna Smędra ,

Medical University of Lodz, ul. Sędziowska 18a, 91-304 Łódź, PL
About Anna
Department of Forensic Medicine, Medical Faculty
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Jarosław Berent

Medical University of Lodz, ul. Sędziowska 18a, 91-304 Łódź
About Jarosław

Department of Forensic Medicine, Medical Faculty


Department of Criminal Proceedings and Forensics, Faculty of Law and Administration, University of Lodz, ul. Kopcioskiego 8/12, 90-232 Łódź

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In Poland a legal death can only be declared by a physician and they are the first link in the chain of medico-legal death investigation. It is usually a general practitioner or an emergency care practitioner. It can also be a medical doctor working in the hospital where the death occurred. Under Polish Code of Criminal Procedure, if it is suspected that death has been caused by criminal means, an external examination of the body at the place of its discovery and a forensic autopsy shall be performed. This suspicion is the only statutory prerequisite for forensic autopsy. In accordance with the Code, if the suspicion arises, these procedures are obligatory; however, they cannot be performed without the existing suspicion. The decision whether to deploy them is taken solely by the state prosecutor conducting the investigation. In accordance with the law, forensic autopsies are performed by a physician, “when practicable, a forensic pathologist”. Sadly, the availability of forensic pathologists in Poland is not large and autopsies are often conducted by a medical doctor who does not have this specialty. The scope of autopsy is not regulated by any laws, the physician always opens three main body cavities: the head, rib cage and abdomen with pelvis. Additionally, if need be, other areas may be opened. A forensic autopsy report consists of a formal section and a description of the actions performed. Finally, it outlines conclusions concerning the possible cause of death and other circumstances. The report is sent to the state prosecutor, who may decide to share it with the family of the deceased. Following the forensic autopsy, the state prosecutor issues a permission for burial of the body, which authorizes the physician to issue a document stating death and enables the family to collect the body for burial.

How to Cite: Smędra, A. and Berent, J., 2022. Medico-Legal Death Investigation Systems – Poland. Sri Lanka Journal of Forensic Medicine, Science & Law, 13, pp.43–46. DOI:
Published on 30 Sep 2022.
Peer Reviewed


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