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3D printed skulls in court — a benefit to stakeholders?

Publikation: Bidrag til tidsskrift/Konferencebidrag i tidsskrift /Bidrag til avisTidsskriftartikelForskningpeer review


  • Mikkel Henningsen, Københavns Universitet, Danmark
  • Lykke Thorlacious-Ussing, Københavns Universitet, Danmark
  • Lotte Groth Jensen, DEFACTUM, Danmark
  • Kasper Hansen
  • Christina Jacobsen, Københavns Universitet, Danmark
  • Stina Lou
  • Chiara Villa, Københavns Universitet, Danmark

Forensic pathologists may use 3D prints as demonstrative aids when providing expert testimony in court of law, but the effects remain unclear despite many assumed benefits. In this qualitative study, the effects of using a 3D print, demonstrating a blunt force skull fracture, in court were explored by thematic analysis of interviews with judges, prosecutors, defence counsels, and forensic pathologists with the aim of improving the expert testimony. Five semi-structured focus groups and eight one-to-one interviews with a total of 29 stakeholders were transcribed ad verbatim and analysed using thematic analysis. The study found that a highly accurate 3D print of a skull demonstrated autopsy findings in detail and provided a quick overview, but sense of touch was of little benefit as the 3D print had different material characteristics than the human skull. Virtual 3D models were expected to provide all the benefits of 3D prints, be less emotionally confronting, and be logistically feasible. Both 3D prints and virtual 3D models were expected to be less emotionally confronting than autopsy photos. Regardless of fidelity, an expert witness was necessary to translate technical language and explain autopsy findings, and low-fidelity models may be equally suited as demonstrative aids. The court infrequently challenged the expert witnesses’ conclusions and, therefore, rarely had a need for viewing autopsy findings in detail, therefore rarely needing a 3D print.

TidsskriftInternational Journal of Legal Medicine
Sider (fra-til)1865–1873
Antal sider9
StatusUdgivet - nov. 2023

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