Investigation of Cause of Death

Education and Research Center of Legal Medicine, Chiba University performs around 350 autopsies a year (366 in 2013) at the request of the police, prosecutors, the coastguard, Chiba Prefectural Government, and other agencies, including judicial autopsies (autopsies of crime victims or suspected crime victims with the permission of the court), investigative autopsies (autopsies performed under the authority of the chief of police under the Act on the Investigation of Cause of Death and on Identification of Bodies Handled by the Police), and approved autopsies (autopsies performed by the prefectural government with the approval of the family of the deceased), which in principle include CT scanning, toxicological testing, and pathological testing in every case. These forensic investigations concerning death are used to determine the cause of death. In particular, however, the determination of the type of death (due to illness, accident, homicide, or suicide) is only possible by combining the results of those tasks performed by the police, such as investigating the circumstances surrounding the death and interviewing the people concerned, with the forensic medical tests performed by our Center; therefore, liaising with the police and other agencies is essential. By determining the cause of death, we aim to protect the health of the living residents of Japan and Chiba Prefecture and to prevent crime and accidents, thus contributing to the safety of the community.

Indivisual Identification

Confirming the identity of a dead body (Indivisual identification) is important for the family of the deceased as well as for society as a whole, and is a task equally as vital as investigating the cause of death. Identity would formerly be determined by facial features, clothing, and possessions, but cases of mistaken identity were frequent, and today the main methods used are the scientific techniques of fingerprinting, dental examination, and DNA profiling. At Education and Research Center of Legal Medicine, we provide services in these fields (other than fingerprinting) through the Department of Forensic Odontology and the Department of Forensic Genetics. We also carry out testing for parentage and other blood relationships based on genetic information, mainly at the request of courts and other official agencies.

Clinical Forensic Medicine

Legal medicine is also a field that deals with the living. Injuries sustained as the result of assault or other criminal activity should be evaluated by a forensic doctor, rather than a clinician whose job is to treat them. At Education and Research Center of Legal Medicine, we liaise with child consultation centers in Chiba Prefecture and Chiba City to provide clinical forensic medical services for the suspected victims of child abuse.

Disaster Response

In the event of a major disaster, such as an earthquake or other natural disaster, a terrorist incident, or a plane crash, the first priority is to save lives, but in the event of a large death toll, Education and Research Center of Legal Medicine is committed to responding with all the resources at its disposal. After the Great East Japan Earthquake, the Chiba University Department of Legal Medicine sent a large number of doctors and dentists to the disaster area to carry out post-mortem inspections and confirm the identity of dead bodies. In the event of the predicted East Nankai Earthquake or an earthquake directly under Tokyo, an even greater death toll is anticipated. In addition to constant training under ordinary conditions, we are also investigating collaborative frameworks for post-mortem inspections and identity confirmation in the event of an emergency. Systematic reform will be important in this respect, including the standardization of dental information.