medical jurisprudence


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medical jurisprudence

or

forensic medicine,

the application of medical science to legal problems. It is typically involved in cases concerning blood relationship, mental illness, injury, or death resulting from violence. Autopsy (see post-mortem examinationpost-mortem examination
or autopsy,
systematic examination of a cadaver for study or for determining the cause of death. Post-mortems use many methodical procedures to determine the etiology and pathogenesis of diseases, for epidemologic purposes, for establishment of
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) is often used to determine the cause of death, particularly in cases where foul play is suspected. Post-mortem examination can determine not only the immediate agent of death (e.g. gunshot wound, poison), but may also yield important contextual information, such as how long the person has been dead, which can help trace the killing. Forensic medicine has also become increasingly important in cases involving rape. Modern techniques use such specimens as semen, blood, and hair samples of the criminal found in the victim's bodies, which can be compared to the defendant's genetic makeup through a technique known as DNA fingerprintingDNA fingerprinting
or DNA profiling,
any of several similar techniques for analyzing and comparing DNA from separate sources, used especially in law enforcement to identify suspects from hair, blood, semen, or other biological materials found at the scene of a violent
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; this technique may also be used to identify the body of a victim. The establishment of serious mental illness by a licensed psychologist can be used in demonstrating incompetency to stand trial, a technique which may be used in the insanity defense (see insanityinsanity,
mental disorder of such severity as to render its victim incapable of managing his affairs or of conforming to social standards. Today, the term insanity is used chiefly in criminal law, to denote mental aberrations or defects that may relieve a person from the legal
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), albeit infrequently.

Bibliography

See C. C. Malik, A Short Textbook of Medical Jurisprudence (1985); C. Wecht, ed., Legal Medicine (1987).

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1] The earliest cases on record are found in the 1832 edition of Beck's Elements of Medical Jurisprudence.
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