MEDICAL JURISPRUDENCEIntroduction Medical Jurisprudence is the science, which teaches us how to discover and apply medical and cognate scientific facts for the ends of law and justice in unraveling crime and protecting individuals, society and the State. Medical Jurisprudence embraces all questions which affect the civil or social rights of individuals, as well as cases of injuries to persons, and brings the medical practitioner in contact with the law. Alfred Swaine Taylors Principles and Practice of Medical Jurisprudence explains the scope of Medical Jurisprudence in the following way: Medical Jurisprudence, or, as it is sometimes called, Forensic, Legal, or State Medicine may be defined to be that science which teaches the application of every branch of knowledge to the purposes of the law; hence its limits are, on the one hand, the requirements of the law, and on the other, the whole range of medicine. Anatomy, physiology, medicine, surgery, chemistry, physics and botany lend their aid as necessity arises; and in some
cases all these branches of science are required to enable a Court of Law to arrive at a proper conclusion on a contested question affecting life or property. The introduction of medical jurisprudence has immensely benefited both the medical as well as the legal field of work. A better understanding and cooperation has resulted and has facilitated a smoother working of both disciplines. Previously unsolvable cases linked with medicine are now solved with ease with the development of the field of medical jurisprudence. It covers in its ambit the provision of evidence for a wide range and scope of cases. It can be used to determine the paternity of a child and also be employed in determining the identity of human bodies, which have been mutilated beyond recognition in accidents like bomb blasts, factory explosions etc. In the field of Evidence Laws, it can be appropriated to solve cases involving murder, rape etc. Medical jurisprudence techniques like autopsy can also be employed to discover important facts vital to the case after the person has died. However, despite their vast benefits to the field of law, medical jurisprudential techniques are not treated as primary evidence till date. The present Indian
Evidence Act continues to treat technical findings, such as the results of DNA tests, as expert evidence. This situation will continue till a legislation is drafted and enacted by the Parliament. Application of Medical Jurisprudence Forensic Medicine includes the use of medicine in the science of law and any discipline that can aid in collection, preservation and analysis of evidence to meet the ends of justice. Forensic medicine, or medical jurisprudence, embraces all those questions which bring the medical man into contact with the law, and embraces (1) questions affecting the civil rights of individuals, and (2) injuries to the person. In the case of Kusa v. State of Orissa1, it was held by the Supreme Court that whenever it is intended to place reliance on a particular view taken by authors of medical jurisprudence, the said view must be put to the doctor to assess how far the view taken by the experts apply to the facts of the particular case. It is the duty of a medical practitioner to frequently give evidence as an expert medical witness in a court of law to prove the innocence or guilt of an accused, or to authenticate or disprove a1
AIR 1980 SC 559
criminal charge of assault, rape or murder brought against an individual. The medical practitioner is thus presumed to be well acquainted with the government orders, statutes and Acts affecting the privileges and obligations in medical practice. In the case of Mayur v. State of Gujarat2, the Apex Court observed that our Courts have always taken the doctors as witness of truth. In modern times, the legal system has to deal with new evidence obtained by use of different scientific techniques. As science has outpaced the development of law, there is unavoidable complexity regarding what can be admitted as evidence in court. Medical forensic evidence plays a crucial role in helping court in arriving at logical conclusions. Justice Malimath Committee recommended comprehensive use of forensic science in criminal investigation. According to the report, a DNA expert should be included in the list of experts under Section 293(4) of Criminal Procedure Code, 1973. Ethical Implications From the dawn of civilization, every system of medicine has brought out a set of regulations to maintain the professional2
AIR 1983 SC 66.
conduct and etiquette among its members. The earliest known such code is the Hippocratic Oath. Medical Council of India brought out the new code of Medical Ethics in 2002. The Code of Medical Ethics states that the principal objective of the medical profession is to render service to humanity with full respect for human dignity. Doctors should extend the same high standard of medical care and support to all patients. It is unethical for a medical practitioner to refuse treatment or investigation for which there are appropriate facilities on the ground that the patient suffers, or may suffer, from a condition, which would expose the doctor to personal risk. It is equally unethical for a doctor to withhold treatment from any patient based on a moral judgment that the patients activities or lifestyle might have been contributed to the condition for which treatment was being sought. Unethical behaviour of this kind may raise a question of serious professional misconduct. Legal Implication In India, a number of legislations permit self-regulation in maintaining the professional standards in the training, recognition of academic qualifications, licensing of new entrants to the
profession and in enforcing disciplinary control over the practicing medical practitioners. The Indian Medical Degrees Act, 1916, The Indian Medical Council Act, 1956, The Dentists Act, 1948, The Indian Medicine Central Council Act, 1973 and the Pharmacy Act, 1948 are some of the legislations which regulate the legal framework related to law and medicine. Medical Negligence Everybody is subject to the law, the rule of law. Normally, a medical man is not responsible to god or man for such evil consequences of his prescriptions or surgical operations as they are entirely beyond his will and therefore independent of his control. If, on the other hand, his mistakes arise from his ignorance or want of skill, he is blameable in as far as he is the willful cause of such ignorance; he should have either known better or, not, knowing better, he should not have undertaken the case for which he knew he was not qualified. In 1995, the Supreme Court in Indian Medical Association v. VP Shantha3 decisively included the health profession under the Consumer Protection Act, 1986. After Indian Medical Association, Consumer Protection Act includes all medical services offered by3
1995 6 SCC 651
the private and government doctors and hospitals. It exempts only those hospitals and the medical practitioners of such hospitals, which offer free service to all patients at all times.