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MedUni Vienna is performing autopsies again

(Vienna, 13 July 2010) After a two-year break, today Federal Minister Beatrix Karl, Rector Wolfgang Schütz and the Head of Department Univ. Prof. Dr. Daniele U. Risser officially opened the newly renovated Forensic Medicine Department. Three hundred to four hundred autopsies will be carried out here each year on behalf of the Vienna Public Prosecution Department.

In August the Department of Forensic Medicine in Sensengasse will be recommencing post-mortems, the newly-adapted facility is being officially opened today by Federal Minister Beatrix Karl, Rector Wolfgang Schütz and the new Head of the Department of Forensic Medicine, Univ. Prof. Dr. Daniele U. Risser. For the planned autopsies, the Department has been redesigned with an investment of around one million euros from funds of MedUni Vienna and the post-mortems will now all be performed on one floor.

"Now we can examine those deaths entrusted to us by the Public Prosecution Department under one roof and therefore under better conditions. After a break of two years we can also provide practice-oriented teaching to our students onsite, explains Risser.

Forensic anthropology gains in importance
The newly created Department of Forensic Anthropology in particular is an essential and urgently needed new feature. In the area of forensics, anthropology as the "science of man" provides interdisciplinary foundations for the systematic development of methods, for example with questions of identification. In Europe the theme is becoming increasingly important in particular because of the required determination of the asylum seekers' age.

Economic factors and outdated conditions led to the reopening
The background to the closure of Forensic Medicine in 2008 were the sanitary conditions at the Institute rightly criticised by the audit court and also concrete economic reasons. The Municipality of Vienna took around 1,500 autopsies conducted for the health authorities away from Forensic Medicine in 2007, and the Institute lost a lot of revenue from this. "During the closure of Forensic Medicine, highly-qualified employees from MedUni travelled all over Vienna and had to carry out autopsies in many different municipal hospitals. Forensic medicine research and practical teaching on corpses were possible but were greatly restricted," explains Risser, describing the transitional situation.
First step in the right direction
"For MedUni Vienna this investment is of major significance because research and teaching have been greatly reduced since the closure. Thanks to this renovation we can again fully fulfil the tasks of a university – to do research and to teach," explains Rector Wolfgang Schütz.

New building: Municipality of Vienna not taking on any co-financing to date
"The situation now created is definitely the best solution for the time being for everyone involved. But in the future I also hope autopsies can be carried out for the health authorities for the Vienna area. The fact that these are still being carried out in municipal hospitals by untrained forensic doctors is neither ideal nor useful for fully revealing unclear causes of death. Negotiations with the City of Vienna on a new cooperation venture are already ongoing," explains Schütz in conclusion.

Minister Karl: New research findings with a worldwide reputation
"For forensic medicine in Vienna a solution has been found which is suitable for the police and Public Prosecution Department and also for the employees in the Department at the Medical University of Vienna," says Minister of Science and Research Dr. Beatrix Karl. She also sees the reopened Department "as a guarantee of the positive continued development of teaching and research in the field of forensic medicine at MedUni Vienna". Under the supervision of Daniele Risser, Karl also hopes "again for research findings with a worldwide reputation", for example in the specialist field of "forensic anthropology" headed by Fabian Kanz.

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