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A psychological autopsy (or psychiatric autopsy—the terms are used interchangeably) is a reconstructive mental state evaluation (RMSE) focused on understanding a deceased individual's mental state at and around the time of death, typically for the purpose of identifying the cause of death (accident vs. suicide or another explanation). Norman Faberow, Robert Litman, and Edwin Shneidman are credited with developing the concept and pioneering the technique of the psychological autopsy in connection with their consultation with the Los Angeles County Coroner's Office, which requested that they assist in determining the cause of death (i.e., suicide or accident) in a subset of “equivocal” cases.

The psychological autopsy is one form of RMSE that can be defined as an expert inquiry focused on discerning some aspect of the mental ...

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