Forensic autopsy has as its main goal to find out the truth about the causes and circumstances of death, when there is a reasonable suspicion to be caused by a violent act. As the legal guardian cannot refuse a forensic autopsy, the forensic physician is free to perform any procedures considered to be necessary for finding out the truth (in order to answer to the objectives asked by the authority). However the use of biological samples or data in research is limited and needs an additional consent, from the legal guardian, which can lead to difficulties in the interpretation of the needed form of consent for research purposes.
Forensic studies can be made on the entire body, on biological samples collected from the deceased, archived material or necropsy reports. Biological products collected from the deceased can be collected in order to answer to the objectives required asked by the authorizing authority, or collected specifically for research purposes, and the amount may vary from a few milligrams of biological tissue or fluid up to whole organs. Every situation has specific ethical issues that we will try to summarize in the following pages.