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NCJ Number: 47516 Find in a Library
Title: FORENSIC PATHOLOGY - A NEW PRESCRIPTION FOR CIVIL CASES
Journal: TRIAL  Volume:14  Issue:6,  Dated:(JUNE 1978)  Pages:42-45
Author(s): C H WECHT
Corporate Author: Assoc of Trial Lawyers of America
United States of America
Date Published: 1978
Page Count: 4
Sponsoring Agency: Assoc of Trial Lawyers of America
Washington, DC 20007
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: THE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN HOSPITAL AND FORENSIC PATHOLOGY ARE CLARIFIED, AND THE VALUE OF A FORENSIC PATHOLOGIST'S INVESTIGATIVE CAPABILITIES IN CIVIL AND CRIMINAL LITIGATION IS EXPLAINED.
Abstract: CAUSATION OF INJURIES IS GENERALLY A MAJOR FACTOR IN ANY CIVIL ACTION INVOLVING PERSONAL INJURY, WRONGFUL DEATH, OR MEDICAL MALPRACTICE. THE HOSPITAL PATHOLOGIST GENERALLY ATTEMPTS TO CORRELATE TISSUE EXAMINATIONS AND LABORATORY FINDINGS WITH OBSERVED CLINICAL SYMPTOMS. SINCE THE OVERWHELMING MAJORITY OF HOSPITAL AUTOPSIES INVOLVE NATURAL DEATHS, LITTLE OPPORTUNITY EXISTS TO DEVELOP A MEANINGFUL UNDERSTANDING OF THE MEDICAL, PHILOSOPHICAL, AND LEGAL PROBLEMS ASSOCIATED WITH THE DETERMINATION OF THE MANNER OF DEATH IN DISPUTED CASES. THE FACT THAT THE PATHOLOGIST WORKS FOR THE HOSPITAL MAY ALSO MAKE THIS PERSON A LESS THAN IMPARTIAL WITNESS IN MALPRACTICE SUITS. ON THE OTHER HAND, THE FORENSIC PATHOLOGIST HAS FREQUENT EXPOSURE TO UNEXPLAINED DEATHS AND HAS DEVELOPED VALUABLE INVESTIGATIVE ABILITIES. FORENSIC PATHOLOGISTS ARE NOT ADVOCATES OF THE PROSECUTION NOR ARE THEY CONCERNED WITH THE GUILT OR INNOCENCE OF A GIVEN DEFENDANT. A GOOD FORENSIC PATHOLOGIST MAINTAINS DETACHED SCIENTIFIC OBJECTIVITY WHILE DETERMINING THE TIME AND MANNER OF DEATH. TWO CASES ARE DETAILED TO EXPLAIN THE DIFFERENCE IN APPROACH BETWEEN HOSPITAL AND FORENSIC PATHOLOGISTS -- THE JOHN F. KENNEDY ASSASSINATION AND A POSSIBLE SEXUAL ASSAULT/MURDER CASE. THE ATTENTION TO DETAIL CONSIDERED ROUTINE IN THE MURDER INVESTIGATION WAS LACKING IN THE CASE OF THE PRESIDENTIAL ASSASSINATION. BECAUSE OF THIS EXPERTISE IN LEGAL MEDICINE, THE FORENSIC PATHOLOGIST CAN BE AN EXCEEDINGLY VALUABLE EXPERT WITNESS IN CASES INVOLVING CAUSE OF INJURY. MANY PHYSICIANS AND HOSPITAL PATHOLOGISTS FAIL TO UNDERSTAND THE LEVEL OF PROOF NECESSARY IN A COURTROOM, THE TYPE OF PROOF NECESSARY, AND THE RULES OF EVIDENCE GOVERNING MEDICAL TESTIMONY. THE FORENSIC PATHOLOGIST, ACCUSTOMED TO LEGAL MEDICINE, CAN MATERIALLY AID THE CASE AND ALSO GUIDE THE ATTORNEY THROUGH THE SNARES OF LEGAL MEDICINE. (GLR)
Index Term(s): Autopsy; Evidence identification; Expert witnesses; Forensic medicine; Judicial process
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