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Saturday, January 11, 2014

Criminal Justice Quote: Forensic Pathology: A Struggling Science

     Well-trained forensic pathologists were scarce until a few medical schools began offering formal training in the 1930s. Physicians had testified in trials for decades, but most had seen only a few violent deaths in their careers and did not understand the science of stab angles, poisons, and gunpowder marks.

     Throughout the 20th century, forensic medical training struggled to catch up with other specializations, perhaps because of its idiosyncrasies. First of all, its patients are dead, so instead of studying laboratory slides and live patients, budding forensic pathologists needed to work on bullet-riddlled bodies. As a result, they worked in morgues, far from a hospital, a source of the medical profession's power. Even recently, forensic pathologists have complained that textbooks and training cover the medicine--injury patterns and pathologic changes--but not the practical stuff like how to check the lips of an overdose for medication dye or the proper way to mark and preserve a bullet fragment.

John Temple, Deathhouse, 2005

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