Identifying Errors in Forensic Autopsy Reports Using a Novel Web-Based Program

Academic Article


  • Introduction: Autopsy reports are often complex, with ample opportunity for errors and inconsistencies. These reports are often scrutinized by both families and attorneys. Identification of errors by proofreading physicians or clerical staff can be improved by utilizing a computer program to examine reports for discrepancies. Methods: A webpage to review demographic consistency, organ descriptions, and pertinent information regarding gunshot wounds was developed to proofread reports. Thirty completed reports were analyzed from the Jefferson County Coroner/Medical Examiner Office. Additionally, a separate individual was instructed to sabotage reports and then determine if the software could detect the alterations. Results: Of the 30 completed reports analyzed, no errors/omissions were identified; however, these reports were accurate upon manual inspection. Rarely, the computer triggered a warning that an organ should be confirmed if the author used a description that differed from the software's vocabulary (e.g., the author discussed “uterine wall” instead of “uterus”). The webpage detected eight out of ten errors supplied to the five sabotaged cases. These errors ranged from inconsistent age, race, and gender, to incomplete gunshot wound descriptions. Conclusion: Identification of errors by a computer proofreading program can improve autopsy report quality. The webpage has been designed so that additional modules, such as strangulation proofreading, could easily be added. Furthermore, the ability of the software to detect errors will continue to improve as more words are added to its vocabulary. The webpage is freely available and can be adapted to other medical examiner offices needs from the GitHub website.
  • Authors

    Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Cain MD; Brazelton J; Dye DW
  • Start Page

  • 103
  • End Page

  • 108
  • Volume

  • 6
  • Issue

  • 1