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Human Death Investigations

Course Code: CRIM 4490
Faculty: Humanities & Social Sciences
Department: Criminology
Credits: 3.0
Semester: 15
Typically Offered: TBD. Contact Department Chair for more info.
course overview

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

Methods of Instruction

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. 

course prerequisites

CRIM 1100

curriculum 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 schedule and availability
course transferability

Below shows how this course and its credits transfer within the BC transfer system. 

A course is considered university-transferable (UT) if it transfers to at least one of the five research universities in British Columbia: University of British Columbia; University of British Columbia-Okanagan; Simon Fraser University; University of Victoria; and the University of Northern British Columbia.

For more information on transfer visit the BC Transfer Guide and BCCAT websites.


If your course prerequisites indicate that you need an assessment, please see our Assessment page for more information.