10 Med. Sci. & L. 1 (1970)

handle is hein.journals/mdsclw10 and id is 1 raw text is: 






MEDICINE

                            SCIENCE

                                                   and the LAW


   Vol. 10                     January 1970                         No.  I


                             EDITORIAL

IT  is many  years  since Havard  (1960) published  his classical study entitled
Detection  of Secret Homicide  which has led to research into the reality of a
problem  which  is far more important  than murder.  This  has shown  not only
weakness  in the medico-legal system involved in the investigation of crime, but
also injustices in cases of civil litigation. Both of these have been revealed by
the introduction of legal aid, as a result of which  there can be  independent
scrutiny of evidence which  would  otherwise have  remained  unchallenged. No
single factor can be the sole cause for this weakness: both Law  and Medicine
must  be held responsible. The  legal profession in England has shown virtually
no interest in the introduction of Forensic Medicine into the teaching curriculum
except recently in Academic surroundings, and yet legal aspects are included in
the Medical  curriculum. In  contra-distinction in Scotland Forensic Medicine is
accepted as part of the law degree.  It is not surprising, therefore, that a large
number  of members  of both branches of the legal profession have been uncritical
of medical  reports until able to obtain a further opinion as  a result of the
availability of legal aid. In fact, with some exceptions, many lawyers, and most
police officers blindly accept a medical opinion because it has been given by a
doctor.  The result can adversely affect both the innocent and the guilty in criminal
cases and act in a similar way in civil litigation. In the case of a police officer,
it can lead him to pursue a wrong line of investigation, remove suspicion from the
guilty and evoke charges against the innocent. This was  shown  in a charge of
murder which  was based on a non-existent alleged fractured skull.
   Amongst  the legal profession it is recognised that there are specialities within
the whole and that to some lawyers who  are widely experienced in company law,
criminal law is almost a mystery. So, too, in medicine there are specialities, and
the same  applies to pathology where  there exist, e.g. morbid anatomy, micro-
biology, biochemistry, haematology and immunoserology. This was not appreciated
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                                                                 M.S.L.-1

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