Center for Autopsy Support
This Center was established in May 2008 as a joint institution with the Department of Legal Medicine. The objectives of its establishment were to provide the public with assistance in correctly determining a cause of death, by performing autopsies, imaging tests, and other means, thus contributing to health, welfare, and safety of the community. It also aimed to improve the employment conditions of part-time or short-term contract employees, whose employment status is unstable. The transformation of national universities into independent corporations meant that government funding for legal medicine was reduced and the number of staff cut, at the same time, the number of autopsies was increasing with the number of elderly people dying alone, and the suspicion that crime as a cause of death may have been overlooked in these cases. The only way to respond to the increased need for autopsies and tests while continuing to maintain standards at a time when the university was not hiring permanent full-time employees was to hire part-time or short-term contract staff. Although a high level of specialization is required of such non-regular staff members, they are employed on fixed-term contracts with no way of converting these into permanent full-time roles. This Center was therefore established as a non-profit organization (NPO) to narrow the gap in employment status, at least to some extent, and enable the payment of pension premiums. Its revenue is derived from autopsy fees. However, this will not resolve the underlying problem. Determining the cause of death and related functions are particularly important tasks in the governance of any country, and as such, are funded from the public purse. It is also essential for Japan to recognize the national need for these functions, and to shift to a system that ensures a stable employment status for staff working in this area.