Legal medicine and forensic sciences


General objectives
Legal medicine and the forensic sciences are concerned with matters as varied as well as diverse with forensic pathology, forensic anthropology, forensic dental medicine, forensic entomology, forensic toxicology, forensic clinics, forensic psychiatry, forensic psychology, genetics and forensic biology, criminalistics, medical law and so on.  It is constituted by all these matters the contents of which gravitate around the application of specific scientific knowledge to legal questions, within the scope of expert activity to produce legal evidence.
In the scope of an Integrated Martership in Medicine it is not pretended to be profound in all points of the immense fields which constitute present Forensic Sciences but endeavor to give special emphasis to matters which can more directly contribute to the training of a future medic in the range of the national medico-legal organization.
Thus, the general objectives of the Curricular Unit of Legal Medicine and Forensic Sciences proposed are:
1.  Learn the basic concepts of Legal Medicine and Forensic Sciences.
2.  Understand the Portuguese medico-legal organization.
3.  Come into contact with the reality of situations in which medico-legal interventions are mostly concerned.

Specific objectives
The Curricular Unit of Legal Medicine and Forensic Sciences aims to equip the future medic with the knowledge and skills that will allow him to correctly articulate with the judicial system and with the remaining interlocutors of the forensic system.   The specific objectives are as follows:
1. Qualify the medical student to dominate the main issues with the area of legal medicine, learning how to adopt an enhanced state of objectivity, rigor and impartiality.
2. Afford the medical student the knowledge of how the medico-legal and forensic system functions in the various areas of Law and Medicine, as well as possible expert responses of Legal Medicine.
3. Afford the future medical doctor with the competence to deal with practical problems such as the verification of death, the proceedings in the locality of the deceased, the conduct in facing victims of domestic violence, misdemeanor and sexual abuse, whether at the level of hospital internment, family medical care or public health system, among others.

General characterization





Responsible teacher

Prof.ª Doutora Anabela Neves


Weekly - Available soon

Total - Available soon

Teaching language





Simpson’s Forensic Medicine. Payne James et al. Hoddre Arnold. 2011.
Handbook of Forensdic Pathology. Di Maio V & Dana SE. Landes Bioscience. 1998.
Forensic Pathology. Di Maio V & Di Maio DJ. CRC Press. 2001.
Knight’s Forensic Pathology. P Saukko, B Knight. 3rd ed. London: Arnold. 2004.
Forensic Anthropology and Medicine: complementary sciences from recovery to cause  of death. A. Schmitt, Eugénia Cunha, João Pinheiro. Humana Press. 2006.
Medicina legal. França GV. Guanabara Koogan. 2011.
Medicina Legal y Toxicología Forense. Gisbert Calabuig. Salvat. 2004.
Clinical forensic medicine: a physician’s guide. Stark MMA. Humana Press. 2005.
Physician's guide to clinical forensic medicine. Stark MMA. Humana Press. 2000.
Ética, Deontologia e Direito Médico. Lidel. 2013.
Código Deontológico da Ordem dos Médicos.
Sundry legislation.
Other bibliographical references (stated during lectures).

Teaching method

The tuition in this Curricular Unit is presential in both theory and practice.

Theoretical lectures:
The theoretical lectures are of 2 (two) hours, based on teaching techniques with the aim of producing participation in learning/training:
• Establishment of objectives
• Use of handouts
• Raising questions to promote reasoning
• Discussion after exposition
• Exposition complemented by a final short summary
The exposition technique chosen is guided by the theme which is the aim of the lecture, using whenever possible an active/interactive methodology.

Theoretical/practical lectures:
The theoretical/practical lectures consist in assisting, at least, to two medico-legal autopsies and three expert forensic clinic examinations, according to the daily agenda.

Evaluation method

Evaluation along the lectures:
Assisting to the minimum theoretical/practical activity, that is, one forensic autopsy and three expert forensic clinic examinations.

Final evaluation:
The evaluation in this Curricular Unit will consist of a final exam, the admission criterion being the attendance of the minimum theoretical/practical activity, that is, one forensic autopsy and three expert forensic clinic examinations.  This evaluation, classified on a scale of 0 to 20 marks, applies equally to all students and introduces a factor of uniformity.  This is done for reasons of gauging, practicability and equity, through a test of single best answer and open short answer questions, using medQuizz system.  The tests are held in accordance with the pedagogical objectives specified for the subject and the number of questions is representative of the importance of the matter being evaluated.

Subject matter

There will be 32 hours of direct contact with the following themes:

• Legal Medicine and Forensic Sciences: medico-legal organization; aims and general concepts; expert intervention. 

• Death process. Death signs.  Verification and certification of death.
• Medico-legal autopsy:  legislation, objectives, aims and limits. Autopsy ancillary investigation.
• The role of the medical practitioner while examining the corpse on site. Gathering of data, documentation, containment and preservation of evidence on site. The chain of custody in legal medicine.
• Wound types and mechanisms. Sudden death in adults and children.
• Mechanical asphyxiae.
• Wounds caused by fire arms, explosives and cutting.
• Blunt injuries.
• Forensic management in mass disasters.

• Basic notions regarding evaluation for victims of offences to their physical integrity.
• Evaluation of body damage according to the Penal Code.
• Evaluation of body damage according to the Civil Code.
• Evaluation of body damage according to Labor Legislation.
• Crimes against sexual liberty and self –determination.  Genital Female Mutilation
• Domestic violence:  medical expert intervention.
• Mistreatment of children: medical expert intervention.
• Aims and limits of expertise in forensic psychiatry.
• The establishment of medical imputability (causality connexion).
• Mental disorder, mental capacity and criminal responsibility.

• Forensic toxicology: concept and application areas
• Forensic toxicology research: objectives, methodologies and interpretation of results.
• Groups of greater toxicological relevance.

• Forensic Genetics and its implications (individual and parental identifications).
• Genetics and criminalistics biology.

•Basic knowledge concerning the aims and limits of forensic anthropology, odontology, entomology and their articulation with forensic expertise.


Programs where the course is taught: