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'Virtual autopsies' are new forensic tools

Jan. 8, 2013 at 7:31 PM   |   Comments

ZURICH, Switzerland, Jan. 8 (UPI) -- "Virtual autopsies" could revolutionize investigations and make hiding the evidence of a "perfect murder" next to impossible, the system's Swiss inventors say.

A state-of-the-art computer-assisted autopsy system increasingly being used in European hospitals allows detection of injuries often undetectable by traditional methods, Britain's The Guardian newspaper reported Tuesday.

The method, dubbed a "Virtopsy," combines images from high-powered magnetic resonance imaging, computed tomography and surface scans of dead bodies, enabling pathologists to examine a corpse in 3-D via computer screens.

Virtopsy has the potential to revolutionize criminal investigations, researchers said.

"Basically there will be no such thing as the perfect murder any more as a virtual autopsy allows you to find every piece of evidence," said Michael Thali, the director of Zurich's Institute for Forensic Medicine and one of the inventors of the system.

The Virtopsy method has already allowed the discovery of hemorrhages and fractures that were not picked up during conventional autopsies, the researchers said.

The new method can be helpful in re-examining cases where the cause of death was unclear, they said.

"It means that third opinions can be gathered, investigations can be reexamined and cases can be reopened," said Lars Oesterhelweg of the Institute of Forensic Medicine at the Charite hospital in Berlin, which has been using a version of the Virtopsy.

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