The scene plays out in autopsy rooms around the world, not to mention on any number of TV crime dramas: a scalpel-wielding pathologist calmly dissects a lifeless body for clues to an untimely death.
The chest and abdominal cavities are pried open, organs removed and the brain eased out through a sawn-off skull in a medical tradition as ancient as the Pharaohs.
It is a tradition, though, facing very modern competition. Led partly by a prominent Canadian pathologist, some specialists are pushing to augment, or on occasion even replace, those conventional post mortems with “virtual autopsies” that use CT and MRI scans to probe bloodlessly inside cadavers.
Ontario recently became the first jurisdiction in Canada to begin using imaging machines designed to diagnose the living as a tool to uncover the medical secrets of the dead. (Photo: Institute of Forensic Medicine, University of Zurich)