Medico-legal autopsies in Denmark

Dan Med Bull. 2011 Mar;58(3):A4247.


Introduction: At 2.7% in 1970, the Danish medico-legal autopsy frequency was lower than recent frequencies observed in the Nordic countries (4-24%). The aim of this study was to analyse trends in the number and frequency of Danish medico-legal autopsies.

Material and methods: Data were collected from the computerized archives in the Danish departments of forensic medicine, Statistics Denmark and the Danish National Board of Health.

Results: During the 1996-2005 study period, a total of 14,990 medico-legal autopsies were performed. This yielded a medico-legal autopsy frequency of between 2.4% and 2.8%. Our results revealed a certain constancy in the number of medico-legal autopsies and frequency of autopsy with regard to manner of death, sex and number, but we also observed changes in the age composition which involved a decrease in the proportion of young (20-39 years) and an increase in the proportion of middle-aged persons (40-59 years).

Conclusion: Denmark has a lower autopsy frequency than other Nordic countries and this may constitute a problem for quality of death-statistics and research based on autopsy results. If the patterns in medico-legal autopsy frequencies continue, a decrease in the number of medico-legal autopsies is to be expected. As a consequence, education and training of forensic pathologists may be impaired.

MeSH terms

  • Autopsy / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Autopsy / statistics & numerical data
  • Denmark
  • Female
  • Forensic Medicine / statistics & numerical data
  • Forensic Medicine / trends*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Retrospective Studies