At the request of the judicial authorities, the Forensic Medicine Unit, located at the Central Institute, carries out forensic examinations to help solve criminal or civil investigations. Often associated with simple autopsies, forensic medicine is in fact the interface between medicine and justice.
Examinations of corpses, expert opinions on living persons and expert opinions on files are the main activities of the department. Without forgetting the importance of relations with relatives, often the most difficult approach.
Activities of the department
- Examination of the body: in the event of a homicide or a death considered suspicious, the forensic doctor goes to the place where the body was found at the request of the judicial authorities. There, he or she records all the parameters useful for estimating the time of death and establishing the circumstances and causes of death. The body can then be transported for various examinations. Only autopsies are not performed in Valais but in Lausanne and Geneva.
- External examination: During the external examination, the forensic doctor analyses the clothing and the body of the victim. He looks for traces of injuries, lesions, evaluates the rigidity of the body...
- Identification: when the body is too badly damaged to be recognised, the forensic scientist may carry out an identification by comparative dental examination. Other techniques, such as genetic analysis, may also be used.
Always at the request of the judicial authorities, and in agreement with the person concerned, the forensic doctor examines victims of violence or suspected offenders. He or she detects any lesions on the body and interprets them before drawing up a report for the judicial authorities.
Forensic examinations are carried out, for example, to estimate the level of alcohol in the blood at the time of a traffic accident or to assess whether medical treatment has been carried out properly. The forensic scientist may also be called upon to interpret damage from photographs, a medical certificate or an investigation file. They are sometimes responsible for determining whether or not certain injuries to an individual were life-threatening.
Other activities include examining bones, participating in reconstructions and often acting as an expert witness in court.
Filiation Investigations (Paternity Tests)
Filiation investigations (or paternity tests) are carried out by the Forensic Medicine Department of the Central Institute of hospitals in cooperation with the Centre universitaire romand de médecine légale (CURML), which is located in Lausanne.
These investigations enable staff to confirm or refute whether there is a family relationship between several individuals by analysing the genetic profiles of the individuals concerned. In most cases, the reliability of the tests carried out is over 99.9%.
The necessary blood samples are taken at the Central Institute in accordance with a very precise protocol which complies with legal provisions on this matter and which allows for reliable identification of the individuals who come forward for the test. The laboratory analyses are carried out in the CURML in Lausanne and a report is issued within 3 weeks.
Filiation investigations may be carried out upon request from a legal body or from a private entity, with the mutual agreement of all those concerned, who must all provide enlightened consent.