Ministry of the
Solicitor General

Code of Ethics for Pathologists

Ontario Forensic Pathology Service

Code of Ethics

Adapted from the Forensic Pathology Section of the Canadian Association of Pathologists (CAP), as approved unanimously at its Annual General Meeting, July 12, 2009.


Pathologists are physicians who often practice in a legal context. This context is different in every province and territory, but we are united in the values we hold and our commitment to the principles of good medical practice. We aspire to practice our branch of medicine according to the highest standards in the world.

Fundamental Duties

We have a duty to the medicolegal death investigation system in which we practice. We will follow the laws, regulations and practice guidelines that are in place where we work. We will participate in the development of these laws, regulations and practice guidelines when invited to do so. If we have an honest disagreement with the leaders of the system in which we practice, we will be forthright and respectful in our opposition.

We have a duty to the court system. We are independent, neutral, scientific agents who are obliged to tell the truth and to strive to leave a truthful impression. We serve the court, not the prosecution and we will make ourselves available to attorneys representing the prosecution and the defence. We recognize that our duty may extend beyond the end of our testimony. We will preserve, describe, document and catalogue evidence according to the highest standards of practice in this area.

We have a duty to our profession. We will be active participants in professional societies, associations and other organizations that promote good pathology practice. We recognize the value of vigorous debate and discussion and we will engage in these activities in a way that respects the professional judgement and autonomy of other pathologists. We will train the next generation of pathologists.

We have a duty to forensic science and medicine. We are dedicated to the advancement of the forensic sciences. We will continuously challenge our own assumptions and test them against the best available current evidence. We will challenge each other’s assumptions. We will engage in mutually respectful debate and discussion. We will learn new skills and contribute to the development of new techniques.

We have a duty to society. We will communicate effectively and truthfully with members of the public. We will educate the public about what we do and the importance of what we do. We will be advocates for good pathology practice.