forensic medicine

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medical jurisprudence

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 examination) 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 fingerprinting; 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 insanity), albeit infrequently.


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

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Forensic Medicine


a medical discipline that studies the biomedical aspects of the work of legal and investigative agencies. These aspects include the procedure and organization of forensic medical examinations, the study of externally caused ill health and death, and forensic medical examinations of living persons to establish whether a sexual offense has taken place or to detect injuries and determine age and the state of health. Forensic medicine is also concerned with post-mortem examinations and the examination of such material evidence as blood, bodily excretions, and hairs. Forensic medicine is closely associated with such medical disciplines as pathological anatomy, traumatology, and toxicology and with criminalistics, criminal and civil law, and criminal and civil judicial proceedings. As forensic medicine developed, forensic chemistry, forensic psychiatry, and forensic toxicology became independent branches of the field.

Forensic medicine emerged in the 16th century, when physicians were first consulted to determine criminal responsibility. The criminal code of Charles V, the Carolina (1532), provided for forensic medical examinations. Important works on forensic medicine were published in the 16th and 17th centuries, including the Treatise on the Physician’s Conclusions and the Embalming of Corpses (1575) by the French surgeon A. Paré and Problems of Forensic Medicine (1621) by the Italian physician P. Zacchias. The hydrostatic test, which determined whether a child had been born alive, was devised by K. Reiger (Poland, 1677) and I. Schreier (Germany, 1682). Departments of forensic medicine were later established in medical schools in France, Germany, Italy, Great Britain, and Belgium. Among those contributing to the development of forensic medicine and to the establishment of forensic medical schools in Europe during the 19th century were J. Casper (Germany), A. Taylor (Great Britain), I. Maski (Czechoslovakia), P. Brouardel and J.-A.-E.-Lacassagne (France), E. Hofmann (Austria), and M. Minovici (Rumania).

In Russia, forensic medical examinations were officially introduced in 1716 by the Military Regulations of Peter I. Owing to the small number of physicians, they were first conducted only in the large cities. Later, the posts of city and district physicians were established in major cities and districts; such physicians conducted forensic medical examinations as part of their duties.

Forensic medicine became legalized in Russian court practice in the first third of the 19th century. The Rules for Physicians in the Legal Examination and Autopsy of Corpses were approved in 1829, and the Regulations for Forensic Medicine, in 1842. The first Russian textbook on the subject, by S. A. Gromov, was published in 1832. Departments of forensic medicine were established in medical schools in the late 19th century. Members of these departments making important contributions to the theory and practice of forensic medicine included E. O. Mukhin, D. E. Min, P. A. Minakov, and N. V. Popov (Moscow University), F. Ia. Chistovich (St. Petersburg Military Medical Academy), A. S. Ignatovskii (University of Yur’ev), I. M. Gvozdev (University of Kazan), E. F. Bellin and N. S. Bokarius (University of Kharkov), and M. F. Popov and M. I. Raiskii (University of Tomsk). The journal Arkhiv sudebnoi meditsiny i obshchestvennoi gigieny (Archive of Forensic Medicine and Social Hygiene), founded in 1865 by E. V. Pelikan, aided in the development of forensic medicine.

A scientific research institute of forensic medicine was founded in Moscow in 1932, and the post of chief forensic medical examiner of the People’s Commissariat of Health of the USSR was created in 1937. The journal Sudebno-meditsinskaia ekspertiza (Forensic Medical Examination) has been published since 1958. The All-Union Society of Forensic Physicians was founded in 1946. Forensic medicine is taught in the higher medical and law schools of the USSR. Recent contributors to the field have included M. I. Avdeev, V. M. Smol’ianinov, V. I. Prozorovskii, and V. F. Chervakov.

Prominent foreign specialists in forensic medicine include D. Modi (India), L. Vacholtz and W. Grzywo-Dabrowski (Poland), A. Todorov (Bulgaria), M. Milovanovic (Yugoslavia), O. Prokop (German Democratic Republic), B. Müller and A. Ponsold (Federal Republic of Germany), C. Gerin and A. Franchini (Italy), L. Derobert and L. Roche (France), E. Somogyi (Hungary), J. Rekallio (Finland), and M. Helpern (USA). The International Academy of Legal Medicine and of Social Medicine was founded in 1938; Soviet physicians have been members since 1961. Foreign journals in the field include Zacchia (Rome, since 1921), Annales de médecine légale et de criminologie et de police scientifique (Paris, 1921–67; since 1968 called Médecine légale et dommage corporel), Medico-legal Journal (Cambridge, England, 1901–41; since 1973 called Medico-legal Society), and Journal of Forensic Sciences (Philadelphia, Pa., since 1956).


Avdeev, M. I. Kurssudebnoi meditsiny. Moscow, 1959.
Gromov, A. P. Kurs lektsiipo sudebnoi meditsine. Moscow, 1970.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

forensic medicine

[fə′ren·sik ′med·ə·sən]
(forensic science)
Application of medical evidence or medical opinion for purposes of civil or criminal law.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.

forensic medicine

the applied use of medical knowledge or practice, esp pathology, to the purposes of the law, as in determining the cause of death
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
References in periodicals archive ?
As there is hardly any person with experience in forensic medicine, experts would be hired from abroad on market based salaries.
After getting clearance from Institutional Ethics Committee (IEC), questionnaires were distributed among students who consented and were present on the first day of Forensic Medicine class.
He said the department of Forensic Medicine and Toxicology , KMC would be provided all the required facilities while the required staff would also be provided.
-Var of suspected while being taken out from the forensic medicine unit of court
The forensic medicine department noted signs of torture on the body including cigarette burns, bruises, cuts, and multiple stab wounds.
Acknowledgement: Forensic Medicine Institution of Turkey contributes to the scientific development efforts according to rules of the medical ethics.
It is pertinent to mention that across the border, a country that has a similar legal framework, the private medical institutions are involved in providing forensic medicine services to the public not only in the form of clinical forensic medicine but also in the conduction of autopsies at their institutions.
The Commission aims at implementing the national policy of forensic medicine, providing forensic, research and training services, setting up the main bases for forensic medicine and supervising the performance of forensic pathologists.
Dubai Police's Forensic Medicine Department processes nearly 3,200 bodies each year, and has been pushing for Emirati talent within its laboratories.
This text encompasses all aspects of forensic medicine, addressing pathology but also stressing this specialty's overlap with the law and its essential and overriding mission of applying medicine toward justice.
The staff of the Independent Palestinian Investigator committee, who is responsible for investigating the killing of the two Palestinian youths at the commemoration of the 66 th Nakba, near Ofar Prison last month, have performed an autopsy of Nadeem Nwarah's body yesterday, and transferred him to The Institute of Forensic Medicine in Abu- Deis.
(BNA) The second edition of the Forensic Medicine Conference opened yesterday at the Arabian Gulf University.

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