Greetings from the Director

Shigetsugu Hatakeyama, M.D., Ph.D.
Director of the Center for Cause of Death Investigation

The number of deaths in Japan keeps increasing year by year and now has reached an annual record level of 1.26 million. Among these deaths, about 170 thousand cases are reported to the police as unnatural deaths. Japan has only about 150 forensic doctors authorized to perform forensic autopsies investigating the causes of these unnatural deaths. Partly because of this, the rate of autopsies in Japan is much lower than in other advanced nations and there is an urgent need to educate talented practitioners to engage in investigations of causes of deaths. An “Act to Promote Cause of Death Investigation Ewas enacted by representative initiated legislation in June, 2012, and awareness of the importance of investigating causes of the increases in unnatural deaths and the identification of victims of mass disasters has increased. From this background, the social importance of autopsy imaging (Ai) is increasing rapidly to enable investigations of causes of death.

In June, 2014, a Cabinet resolution established a “Program to Promote ‘Cause of Death EInvestigation E and under this program, investigation of causes of death has become regarded as beneficial to public welfare. This has led to moves to strengthen the environment for and training of specialists involved in cause of death investigation to ensure the quality and expertise required. Further, a “Framework for investigations of causes of death of people who have passed away in connection with medical services Ewas instituted in October, 2015.

Based on the conditions stated above, the Center for Cause of Death Investigation was established in April of 2016 under the auspices of Hokkaido University Faculty of Medicine. The center has five divisions: Division of Forensic Medicine, Division of Pathology, Division of Autopsy Imaging, Division of Legal Dentistry, and Division of Clinical Forensic Medicine. In association with Hokkaido University Hospital, the center conducts investigations into causes of death, carries out identification of persons in forensic examinations, and conducts relevant research and education to develop the human resources needed in the field of investigations of causes of death.

We have worked assiduously to improve knowledge related to cause of death investigation by sharing our experience and collaborating with other institutions including the Hokkaido Prefectural Police, the Department of Health and Welfare, the Criminal Investigation Laboratory, the Hokkaido Medical Association, the Hokkaido Dental Association, hospitals in the community, the Japan Coast Guard, as well as other universities.

We wish to express our deep appreciation for your continued support and encouragement.