Pathology, opposed to forensic pathology, refers to a specialized field of medicine, which focuses on the study of diseases. This method of study is generally conducted through an autopsy. However, adding the word the forensics to the word pathology, changes the whole concept as it refers to a branch of pathology that deals with performing an autopsy on a corpse and determining the cause of death. This autopsy is performed at the request of a coroner or medical examiner.
Forensics pathologists have a multitude of roles to play. They include using tissue samples to identify the presence or absence of a disease, determining the cause of death, collection of evidences like hair samples and blood which are then passed for analyses to toxicologists which acts as a expert witness in criminal court cases, examining any post mortem wounds or injuries and collaborating these investigations with physical anthropologists and forensic odontologists for body identification. With no scope of error, these processes are all performed meticulously and painstakingly. The major component of forensic pathology thus is of making autopsy examinations of both external as well as internal organs to discover or determine the cause of death. In order to establish any underlying pathological basis for the death, tissue samples are taken from the bodies and studied under the microscope under monitored conditions.
Forensic anthropology is a field of specialized study that works closely with forensic pathology. Forensic anthropology, as opposed to forensic pathology, is the process of investigating what takes place with human remains left unseen for years and thus decomposed beyond recognition or scrapped of any traces of DNA.
The forensic pathologists focus on the soft tissues of body remains to determine the cause of death by conducting autopsies. The cause of death, for this field, should be accurate, whether because of natural causes, accidents or suicide and the like. While regular medical doctors can well conduct the examination or autopsy, the forensic pathologists have more training and experience as they are training specially in the field of forensic pathology and pathological issues.
A few linguistic courses and a range of anthropology too is already covered in most undergraduate courses in the field of forensic pathology. PhD programs or masters courses are supplemented with more research and the postgraduate studies for techniques and applications used in forensic pathology can be obtained at Masters or PhD level.