Date lodged: 12 July 2018
To ask the Scottish Government whether it considers that there is appropriate availability of equipment and staff to roll out a scanning facility for post mortems in each health centre.
Answered by: James Wolffe QC 2 August 2018
No forensic pathologists in Scotland utilise solely MRI or CT scanning for the purpose of carrying out post mortem examinations on behalf of the procurator fiscal. A research project is ongoing in Lothian, funded by Lothian Health Board for radiology research purposes, in which scanning is undertaken as an adjunct to full post mortem examination. There are no facilities elsewhere in Scotland which make provision for MRI or CT scanning in the context of post mortem examination. MRI and CT scanners are located within NHS facilities. They are operated by radiographers and the scans are interpreted by radiologists who are NHS staff, and not by pathologists. It is understood that these scanners are operating to capacity in examinations on living patients. Were it to be considered appropriate to use scanning for the purpose of post mortem examinations in death investigations in Scotland, this would require the provision of additional resources by way of equipment and staff.
I am advised that the efficacy of scanning as a means of undertaking post mortem examination is a matter of debate amongst professional pathologists in Scotland, and that many pathologists take the view that scanning would only be a suitable means of establishing the cause of death in cases where pathologists currently undertake non-invasive view and grant examinations.
A view and grant examination is a non-invasive process, consisting of a careful and detailed examination of the body and consideration of the medical records. The procurator fiscal will always consider whether a view and grant examination would be sufficient. However, it is a matter for the pathologist, who has a professional responsibility to certify the cause of the death, and to do so in a manner which can, if necessary, be professionally justified, whether a view and grant examination will suffice.