Published Online: 15 SEP 2009
Copyright © 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. All rights reserved.
Wiley Encyclopedia of Forensic Science
How to Cite
Knoll, J. L. and Hazelwood, R. R. 2009. Psychological Autopsy. Wiley Encyclopedia of Forensic Science. .
- Published Online: 15 SEP 2009
The psychological autopsy is a procedure that assists in the classification of equivocal deaths, where the manner of death is not immediately clear. The procedure involves a thorough and systematic retrospective analysis of the decedent's life, with a particular focus on suicide risk factors, motives, and intentions. It has been used for almost 50 years to assist medical examiners, collect research data, inform suicide prevention efforts, and as a forensic tool in courts. The psychological autopsy is a time-consuming process that requires the investigator to analyze all relevant data from a wide array of sources so that a rich psychological biography emerges. A properly conducted psychological autopsy provides a level of important detail far beyond that obtained from a simple review of demographic data or a police narrative. The psychological autopsy methodology has met admissibility standards in a few criminal and civil cases. However, the problem of a lack of standardization has been cited as a main limitation. Until a standardized protocol is developed and accepted, admissibility will likely be determined on a case-by-case basis.
- psychological autopsy;
- equivocal death;
- postmortem suicide risk assessment;