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Government needs to stop break-up of forensic pathology

22 August 2018

Government needs to stop break-up of forensic pathology service and listen to the clinical experts

“The Government needs to listen closely to the small group of highly trained clinical experts working in the country’s national forensic pathology service, who are warning of unintended consequences in years to come if the service is dismantled,” says Ian Powell, Executive Director of the Association of Salaried Medical Specialists (ASMS).

He was commenting on an interview this morning with forensic pathologist Dr Paul Morrow about planned changes to the national forensic pathology service:

Forensic pathologists have warned that the national forensic pathology service is on the brink of collapse, and that Justice Minister Andrew Little is refusing to intervene (

Mr Powell says a significant issue raised by Dr Morrow involves the change in training requirements by the Royal College of Pathologists of Australasia (RCPA), which means that formal training in post-mortems will no longer be given to anatomic pathologists, only to forensic pathologists. But the restructuring that the Ministry of Justice is imposing depends on anatomic pathologists being trained in post-mortems.

“This will place even more stress on the forensic pathology workforce and cause problems in 5 to 10 years as the current generation of coronial pathologists retire and are replaced with people who have not had the same training in post-mortems.

“Dr Morrow made the very important point that a national forensic pathology service would be better placed to respond to this situation and distribute expertise as needed throughout the country,” says Mr Powell.

“However, our ability to respond to risks arising from these changes may well be compromised by having four different providers who will inevitably compete with one another and negotiate within complicated governance structures.

“The Government needs to be thinking ahead about how to manage these risks in the best interests of the families of people who have died and the needs of their communities. Part of that response should involve really listening to the concerns being raised by the small highly specialised team of forensic pathologists, who are the experts in this matter.”


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