Department of Legal Medicine

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A physician is a professional who deals broadly in the health care of individuals and matters of life and death. Most people, at one point or another in their lifetimes, require medical attention for health issues of varying severity. On the other hand, there are also many people who stay relatively healthy throughout their entire lives. However, death comes to all of us, without exception. Death does not just wipe a person off the family register; it also affects relatives and other people left behind through various social consequences involving inheritance, insurance, judicial rulings, and so forth. In the event of death, only a physician has the authority to confirm end of life and prepare death certificates or postmortem certificates. Death certificates are issued at the close of medical treatment while postmortem certificates are issued when individuals die under other circumstances. A diagnosis of death, given as an extension of routine health care, suffices in situations where a person expires in conjunction with the close of medical treatment. On the other hand, deaths occurring under other circumstances require the services of a physician who can perform a professional postmortem examination. Those pursuing legal medicine learn the knowledge required for performing such specialized services.

Legal medicine is a practical science that applies this knowledge toward postmortem examinations and evaluations. Hence, the goal of research is to translate findings into better precision in the practice of forensic diagnosis and evaluation. Moreover, research focuses on various unresolved issues encountered during the practice of forensic diagnosis and evaluation in three major areas: forensic pathology in regard to the human body, toxicology, and personal identification.

Research areas

1. Forensic pathology research

  1. Complications related to standard medical procedures/cardiopulmonary resuscitation
    Analyze complications resulting from invasive treatment.
  2. Effect of cardiopulmonary resuscitation on alcohol users in cardiac arrest
  3. Sudden death due to extrinsic/intrinsic causes
    Elucidate the mechanism and pathology of sudden death due to extrinsic or intrinsic causes.
  4. Identify chemical and biological markers of suicide and application of findings to suicide prevention efforts in health care
  5. Preventive legal medicine related to the safety of the elderly in daily life

2. Forensic toxicology research

  1. Pharmacokinetics of emergency drugs and its forensic toxicology assessments.
  2. Postmortem stability and redistribution of drugs in the body
    Elucidate the postmortem presence and levels in the body of residual enzymatic metabolism and chemical decomposition of drugs in relation to their structures.
    Formulate standards for assessing and analyzing drug concentrations based on biological specimens taken during autopsies.
  3. Forensic study of alcohol regarding its consumption and postmortem production
    Investigate phenomena specific to corpses that affect forensic diagnoses of the presence and levels of alcohol consumption.
  4. Forensic chemical assays of chemical compounds produced postmortem and their practical applications
    Examine the relationship between putrefactive amines and γ-hydroxybutyric acid produced postmortem, and factors such as assessment of the degree of putrefaction of the corpse and time elapsed since death.
  5. Suicidology in relation to smoking and alcohol consumption
    Quantitatively analyze alcohol consumption and smoking habits, and examine from a toxicological perspective the relationship between the resulting data and suicides.

3. Forensic molecular biology and genetics research

  1. Forensic genetics research into polymorphism screening of forensic biological specimens
    Study extrinsic factors that affect polymorphism screening of various human specimens.
  2. Forensic genetics of ABO blood types
    Investigate the practical utility and limitations of genetic tests for ABO blood typing.
  3. Pathological analysis using DNA and RNA assays
    Study tissue damage caused by various extrinsic factors such as intoxication using DNA and RNA assays.
    Quantitatively analyze mRNA of proteins or microRNA expressed in response to various extrinsic factors such as physical and mental stress.


Department Name
Professor Junichi Furumiya
Assistant Lecturer Akinori Nakanishi
Assistant Lecturer Hiroyuki Nishimura
Assistant Lecturer Chisato Hamada
Professor Emeritus Yoshiaki Hashimoto

Kochi Medical School
Department of Legal Medicine