Terminology

In addition to the lack of reproducibility of the postmortem examinations, the terminology used by the pathologists to define the cause of death, particularly in the form required for the registration of the death, may often be idiosyncratic, and similar disease processes may be denoted by different pathologists using many different phrases. For example, damage to the heart muscle caused by narrowing of the coronary arteries by atheroma may be termed simply ischemic heart disease or it may be called myocardial ischemia resulting from coronary atheroma or even by the "lay" term, heart attack (7). This variation in terminology may lead to confusion, particularly among lay people attempting to understand the cause and the manner of death. A considerable amount of research (1,7) has been produced based on such lay assessments of the pathological features of a death, and this has, at times, resulted in increased confusion rather than clarification of the issues involved.

If the issues regarding the definition of "in custody," the variation in the postmortem examinations and the production of postmortem reports, and the use and analysis of subsequent specialist tests all raise problems within a single country, then the consideration of these deaths internationally produces almost insuperable conflicts of medical terminology and judicial systems.

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