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Medical jurisprudence is a branch of medicine that involves the study and application of medical knowledge in the legal field. Because modern medicine is a legal creation and medico-legal cases involving death, rape, paternity etc. require a medical practitioner to produce evidence and appear as an expert witness, these two fields have traditionally been inter-dependent.
Forensic medicine is a narrower field that involves collection and analysis of medical evidence (samples) to produce objective information for use in the legal system.
Physicians have a duty to act in their patients best interest and can be charged in a court of law if they fail to do so. On the other hand, a physician may be required to act in the interest of third parties if his patient is a danger to others. Failure to do so may lead to legal action against the physician.
States have been known to ask physicians engage in torture of individuals or examine and identify individuals who can endure torture. In such circumstances physicians must choose whether to disobey the authorities even at the risk of harm to themselves.
Physicians assess injured individuals and the degree of impairment they cause. This allows courts to determine and award damages.
They may also be required to assess the mental status of accused persons and whether they are fit to stand trial. They may also determine whether an individual is of sound mind and capable of getting into a binding contract with another party.
They are also required to perform an autopsy to determine the cause or time of death where this is not clear.
Medical jurisprudence includes:
- questions of the legal and ethical duties of physicians;
- questions affecting the civil rights of individuals with respect to medicine; and
- medicolegal assessment of injuries to the person.
Under the second heading there are many aspects, including (but not limited to):
- (a) questions of competence or sanity in civil or criminal proceedings;
- (b) questions of competence of minors in matters affecting their own health; and
- (c) questions of lawful fitness or safety to drive a motor vehicle, pilot an aeroplane, use scuba gear, play certain sports, or to join certain occupations.
Under the third heading, there are also many aspects, including (but not limited to):
- (a) assessment of illness or injuries that may be work-related (see workers' compensation or occupational safety and health) or otherwise compensable;
- (b) assessment of injuries of minors that may relate to neglect or abuse; and
- (c) certification of death or else the assessment of possible causes of death — this is the incorrect, narrow meaning of forensic medicine as commonly understood.
 History (UK academia)
Medical jurisprudence had a chair founded at the University of Edinburgh in 1807, first occupied by Andrew Duncan, the younger. It was imposed on the university by the administration of Charles James Fox, and in particular Henry Erskine working with Andrew Duncan, the elder.
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