Human Death Investigations

Humanities & Social Sciences
Course Code
CRIM 4490
Semester Length
Max Class Size
Typically Offered
To be determined


Course Description
This course will give an overview of some of the main types of human death investigations. An understanding of the approach, biological mechanisms of death, and the role of the “investigator” in various death scenarios will be discussed. This course will also focus on the use of a standardized approach to the investigation of sudden deaths, to recognize the features of each specific death type, and to understand the importance of scene investigation.
Course Content
  1. Introduction to Course
  2. Introduction to Death Investigations
  3. Child Deaths
  4. Asphyxia
  5. Blunt and Sharp Trauma
  6. Motor Vehicle Incidents
  7. Suicide and “Suicide by Cop”
  8. Excited Delirium and Excessive Force
  9. Skeletal Remains, Missing Persons and Mass Disasters
  10. Industrial Deaths
  11. Institution Deaths
  12. Environmental Deaths:  Drowning, cold exposure and avalanches
  13. Environmental Deaths:  Thermal, fire and electrocution
  14. Drug and Alcohol-related Deaths

Topics may vary slightly due to semester length (holidays) and guest lecture availability

Learning Activities

The course will employ a variety of instructional methods to accomplish its objectives, including some of the following: 

  • lectures
  • audio visual aids
  • small group discussions
  • critical analysis of existing death investigations
Means of Assessment

Evaluation will be carried out in accordance with Douglas College Policy.  The instructor will provide written course outlines with specific evaluation criteria at the beginning of the semester.  Evaluation will be based on some of the following:  take home assignments, seminar participation including assigned ‘in-class’ tasks, research paper and/or presentation.


An example of an evaluation scheme would be:

Mid-term assignment  30%
Presentation  20%
Seminar attendance/participation      20%
Final assignment  30%
Total 100%



Learning Outcomes

At the conclusion of this course the successful student will be able to:    


  1. Explain some of the main types of human death investigations
  2. Discuss the importance of human death investigations
  3. Understand the principles of death investigations
  4. Describe the approach, biological mechanisms of death, and the role of the “investigator” in each of the main types of death investigations
  5. Apply a standardized approach to any sudden death presented, to recognize the features of each specific death type, and to understand the importance of scene investigation
  6. Discuss a number of other agencies that investigate deaths and differentiate their roles
  7. Create a ‘modified’ Judgement of Inquiry for a given scenario.  Include circumstances of death, cause of death, in-depth description of biological mechanism of death, agencies affected by the death, and recommendations (as well as rational of recommendations) to those agencies.
  8. Evaluate a fatality report completed by one of the many agencies that investigates death. For example, the Railway Investigation Report (R06V0183) completed by the Transport Safety Board of Canada. 
Textbook Materials

Textbooks and Materials to be Purchased by Students: 


Due to the unique nature of the course, the readings will include current and applicable journal articles for each week’s topics.    


Reference material may include: 

Maloney, Michael S. (2018). Death Scene Investigation Procedural Guide. Second Edition. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press. 

Hanzlick, Randy.  (2007). Death Investigation:  Systems and Procedures.  Boca Raton, FL:  CRC Press. 

Jaffe, Federick A.  (1991). A Guide to Pathological Evidence:  For Lawyers and Police Officers.  Third Edition.  Scarborough, ON:  Carswell Publication.




No corequisite courses.


No equivalent courses.

Course Guidelines

Course Guidelines for previous years are viewable by selecting the version desired. If you took this course and do not see a listing for the starting semester / year of the course, consider the previous version as the applicable version.

Course Transfers

These are for current course guidelines only. For a full list of archived courses please see

Institution Transfer Details for CRIM 4490
Kwantlen Polytechnic University (KPU) KPU CRIM 4XXX (3)
Langara College (LANG) LANG GNST 2XXX (3)
Simon Fraser University (SFU) SFU CRIM 3XX (3)
Thompson Rivers University (TRU) TRU SOCI 2XXX (3)
Trinity Western University (TWU) TWU HUMA 3XX (3)
University of British Columbia - Okanagan (UBCO) UBCO ARTS 2nd (3)
University of British Columbia - Vancouver (UBCV) UBCV ARTS 2nd (3)
University of Northern BC (UNBC) UNBC SOSC 3XX (3)
University of the Fraser Valley (UFV) UFV CRIM 4XX (3)
University of Victoria (UVIC) UVIC SOSC 4XX (1.5)

Course Offerings

Summer 2023