Skip to main content Deutsch

How to become an M.D. specialized in Forensic Medicine

The specialised field of forensic medicine comprises applied medicine, toxicology, serology and investigating biological evidence in the interests of the law, public safety and the health care system. This includes the examination, assessment, reconstruction and clarification of natural and violent deaths, physical injuries, damage to the health of and after-effects of injuries to living people, poisoning, the effects of alcohol and addictive drugs, bodies and body parts for the purposes of establishing identity, sexual crimes, child abuse, disputed family relationships, medical malpractice, traces of DNA and other evidence; as well as addressing legal questions from a medical standpoint, notably as an expert witness before courts and administrative authorities.

Graduation as Medical Doctor (M.D.) (duration: six years)

A six-year course to become a Forensic Medical Specialist, broken down into:

  • Basic training (acquisition of basic skills for all physicians after graduation) for 9 months, which takes place in hospitals: three months of surgical specialties plus six months of conservative subjects serve as the basis for postgraduate education (emergency competencies, primary care measures, recognition of the most common diseases)
  • thereafter specific training to become a Forensic Medical Specialist for another 63 months, comprising two parts:

    • Special subject-specific basic training lasting 36 months: Basic skills throughout the specialized field of Forensic Medicine
    • Special subject-specific specialization in modules lasting 27 months: In-depth training in sub-areas of the specialized field of Forensic Medicine

The degree is completed by sitting the specialist examination

  • Knowledge of classical forensic medicine (death, physical changes, external examination, injuries, types of injuries and how they occur);
  • Knowledge of normal and pathological anatomy (natural death); training in post-mortem examinations and special post-mortem techniques (embryo, newborns, toddlers, road traffic accidents, mors in tabula);
  • Identification (disaster medicine);
  • Traffic-related medicine (examination of corpses and living people, special post-mortem techniques, biomechanics, fitness to drive, suitability to drive);
  • Termination of pregnancy, criminal abortions;
  • Ancestry issues, fertility, paternity serology, hereditary biology, human genetics, examinations associated with sexual crimes, child abuse, examining sex offenders;
  • Knowledge of toxicology, in particular identification of poisoning cases with typical changes and morphology of poisoning;
  • Training in alcohol-related medicine (detection, effects, assessment);
  • Training related to addictive drugs (detection, effects, assessment);
  • Biological trace analysis (blood, semen, sweat, hair, urine, stool); chemical, physical, microscopic and DNA methods of detection;
  • Knowledge of occupational and environmental diseases;
  • Documentation (findings and expert opinions, description and storage of evidence, photographs, special microscopy, collection and preservation of bodies and body parts);
  • Knowledge of the legislation applicable to the practice of medicine, in particular criminal and civil law, as well as health-related legislation;
  • Assessments, in particular expert opinions; evaluating invalidity, ability to work and stand trial, suitability for detention, injuries and the effects of injuries for living people; how injuries occur; assessing medical malpractice, in particular mors in tabula, anaesthetic and transfusion accidents.

According to Section 125 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, an expert witness is a “person who on the basis of the evidence and his:her expertise, is in a position to establish fascts or to draw and substantiate legally relevant conclusions.” An expert witness is therefore a person who has above-average expertise, usually acquired through university education and corresponding experience in a field.

An expert is appointed by the relevant court when specialist knowledge is needed to investigate or take evidence and to clarify the facts. They must remain completely objective and unbiased at all times and are only there to assist in the decision-making process – not to actually make the decision. Expert witnesses carry a great deal of responsibility and have a considerable influence on judicial decisions.

Their work is regulated by the Austrian Act on Expert Witnesses and Interpreters (Sachverständigen- und Dolmetschengesetz) and registration as an expert witness in a particular field on a so-called list of experts which is carried out by the Federal Ministry of Justice. To become an expert witness, you must have at least five years' experience in the relevant position and field, and pass an examination before a board of examiners. Inclusion on the list of experts is limited to a period of five years and may be extended for a further five years upon application. Remuneration for expert work is regulated by the Law on Entitlement to Fees (Gebührenanspruchgesetz).

Six-year degree in medicine finishing with a licence to practise medicine.

Five-year training as a specialist in forensic medicine, divided into:

  • at least six months of study at an institute for pathology
  • at least six months of study at a psychiatric institution
  • at least 48 months of study at an institute for forensic medicine

» Fulfilling one of the catalogues of examinations determined by the German Medical Chamber = Catalogue of specialists.

» Recognition as a specialist for forensic medicine by passing a specialist exam after the course of study has been completed.

See here:

Three-year bachelor degree in medicine – completing with a Bachelor of Medicine (BMed)

Three-year master degree in medicine – completing with a Master of Medicine (MMed)

Five-year training as a specialist in forensic medicine, divided into:

  • non-specialised professional training: one year in a clinical field
  • specialist professional training: four years in forensic medicine

(alternatively, for a minimum of six months but a maximum of one year: pathology, forensic psychiatry, molecular biology)

» Proof of a certain number of clinical forensic examinations, legal inspections, post-mortem examinations and forensic case handling (FMH evaluation log) determined by the FMH (Association of Swiss Physicians)

» Training is completed by sitting the specialist examination

See here:
Universität Bern
Schweizerische Gesellschaft für Rechtsmedizin
Universität Basel

Six-year degree in medicine (four years of studies + two years as a foundation doctor)

About five years training to become specialist in clinical pathology with a focus on forensic pathology

after that 2 paths of training:

Training to become a specialist in histopathology:
  • MRCPath I two years
  • FRCPath II three years (specialising in forensic pathology)
  • Five years of study
  • 18–24 months’ training in forensic pathology

See here:
The British Association in Forensic Medicine
The Royal College of Pathologists
The Chartered Society of Forensic Sciences
Forensic Science Central

Four years of undergraduate studies (bachelor)

Four years of medical school (M.D. or D.O.)

Two routes, either four years training in Anatomic Pathology ("Pathologie") and Clinical Pathology ("Labormedizin") or three years training in Anatomic Pathology

One year fellowship in Forensic Pathology

See here:

Forensic Pathologist