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Forensic Pathologist Consensus in the Interpretation of Photographs of Patterned Injuries of the Skin

NCJ Number
Journal of Forensic Sciences Dated: April 2016
Date Published
April 2016
7 pages
Since forensic pathologists are commonly asked to evaluate injuries on the basis of photographs, this study asked members of the National Association of Medical Examiners to participate in an online survey in which they were presented with 68 patterned injuries of the skin and asked to make a diagnosis ranging from very general (e.g., "blunt" vs. "sharp") to specific (e.g., "baton blow").

The study found that consensus among participants averaged 0.77 for general diagnosis and averaged 0.72 for specific diagnosis. Although there was a strong correlation between consensus and confidence in aggregate, individual correlations were poor. Consensus diagnosis was inversely correlated with age, and positively correlated with jurisdictional size, medical degree, and whether or not the respondent was actively performing autopsies as a job function. A subsequent survey is exploring possible reasons for lack of consensus in low-consensus questions. The high correlation between confidence and consensus at the aggregate level and low correlation at the individual level may have implications for quality assurance protocols. (Publisher abstract modified)

Date Published: April 1, 2016