About Us | Western Cape Government

About Us

(Department of Health and Wellness, Western Cape Government)
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Our Vision
Professional, scientific medico-legal investigation of death service to all.

Our Values
Caring, Competence, Accountability, Integrity, Responsiveness, Respect.

Our Services
The Forensic Pathology Service was established in 2006 when the Police Mortuaries transferred to Health and the Directorate Forensic Pathology Service was established within the Department of Health.

This service is rendered via eighteen forensic pathology facilities across the Province which includes two academic forensic pathology laboratories in the Cape Town Metropolitan Area, two academic departments of forensic medicine (Universities of Cape Town and Stellenbosch), three Referral FPS laboratories and smaller FPS laboratories and holding centres in the West Coast, Cape Winelands, Overberg, Eden and Central Karoo Districts.


What We Do

The Forensic Pathology Service is mandated by law to investigate all Unnatural Deaths.

The Forensic Pathology Service includes the following:

  • Investigation at the scene of death.
  • Collection of evidence.
  • Assistance to the South African Police Service with the identification of deceased persons.
  • Autopsy and post mortem examinations including specimen collection.
  • Safe custody of all forms of evidence and specimens.
  • Preparation of judicial reports and statements.
  • Provide testimony in court proceedings.
  • Training of doctors, registrars, undergraduate students, and forensic officers.
  • Rendering FPS assistance to other provinces and countries.
  • Provision of Mortality data to relevant stakeholders to inform research and prevention strategies.
  • Research.


The consent of the family is not needed to perform the autopsy and the family/relatives may not deny this process.

The Forensic Pathology Service also includes the functions of the Inspector of Anatomy.

What is an unnatural death?

Read more about what this means.

Is there more that you want to find out about Forensic Pathology Services? You can also find answers at Your Questions or click here to contact someone who can help you learn more.


Call out procedure

Where there is a death suspected of being due to unnatural causes, the SAPS Officer or hospital will contact the closest forensic pathology laboratory. This is only done after the Police have concluded their crime scene investigation, and photography and the death declaration has been completed.

In the Cape Town Metro Area, the Metro EMS Control Centre will dispatch either our Tygerberg or Salt River Forensic Pathology Laboratory vehicles. Members of the South African Police Service will contact our control centre via their SAPS Radio Control Centre. Hospitals will contact the EMS Control Centre directly.

In more rural areas, the nearest forensic pathology laboratory service, will attend to the scene and remove the deceased. The Forensic Pathology Service may only remove the deceased from a scene once the person has been declared dead and the crime scene, and death scene investigations have been concluded.

Our Partners

The Forensic Pathology Service is reliant on a number of partners to conclude the medico-legal investigation of death and other ancillary processes.

  1. The Forensic Chemistry Laboratory (National Department of Health): We submit tissue and blood samples to the Forensic Chemistry Laboratory for analysis. This includes analysis for Blood Alcohol and Toxicology. The Pathologists are at times reliant on the outcome of these results to conclude the post-mortem findings.
  2. The Forensic Science Laboratory (South African Police Service): We submit DNA samples to the Forensic Science Laboratory for scientific identification of deceased in cases where visual identification is not possible.
  3. Home Affairs: Fingerprints are submitted to Home Affairs for identification of deceased by means of fingerprint results.
  4. The South African Police Service: The identification of the deceased is the responsibility of the SAPS. We are therefore reliant on the SAPS to trace the next-of-kin to formally identify the deceased person.
  5. Department of Justice/National Prosecuting Authority.



The content on this page was last updated on 20 October 2022