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Increasingly, high profile criminal and civil legal actions around the world highlight the interactions between medicine and the law. Forensic and legal medicine describes the body of knowledge that encompasses this interaction. The terms generally embrace forensic pathology and clinical forensic medicine. However, the nature of forensic and legal medicine is broad and may extend beyond medical and legal issues, into scientific and technical areas, and include specialist roles such as anthropology, toxicology, odontology and psychiatry.
Separate from these issues is the much more widely recognized need to apply moral, ethical and human rights principles in the investigation of certain crimes, whether considering victims or perpetrators. Those involved in the practice of forensic and legal medicine and those in legal, judicial, police and other investigative organizations which require knowledge of aspects of forensic and legal medicine often need to identify appropriate and relevant information. The aim of this Encyclopedia is to provide a reliable starting point for validated information across these fields.
The success of lawsuits and prosecutions is dependent on utilizing the best services available, and knowing when to use them appropriately. All aspects of medicine are now scrutinized, not only by medical, legal and scientific professionals – but also by the lay public. Such scrutiny drives and improves standards – and some of these standards have come about as a result of major cases in criminal and civil courts and other tribunals around the world. The drive for much of this scrutiny derives from the intense review that occurs as a result of events taking place throughout the world in criminal and civil courts. Thus, improved methodology of detecting and documenting evidence, ensuring chains of custody and scientifically testing evidence ensures that appropriate judicial outcomes are achieved.
Teaching of forensic and legal medicine at an undergraduate level is – on a worldwide basis – underemphasized when compared with therapeutic specialities. Paradoxically, barely a day goes by without at least one medical news story being published of legal and forensic relevance and significance. The need for readily accessible knowledge has never been greater.
Encyclopedia of Forensic and Legal Medicine covers the gamut of forensic and legal medicine and, in essence, is a complete library of the forensic sciences, including odontology, anthropology, toxicology, entomology, criminalistics, and forensic psychiatry. It also includes legal and technical issues, as well as health care, human rights, and ethics regarding both victims and perpetrators.
Subtopics are endless and, to name a few, include the crime scene, DNA profiling, the various abuses suffered by children, police guidelines on postmortem examinations, prints (finger, palm, foot, face, and ear), prions, positional asphyxia, torture, ritualistic crimes, brain death, forensic psychiatry, war crimes, religious beliefs and atheism, various types of traumatic deaths, and decomposition patterns and rates. Many of the references will also have relevance for police, judicial, legal, and other investigative authorities in both providing and collating information.
The volumes are highly authoritative, comprehensive, and diverse, consisting of articles by 279 recognized expert contributors from various disciplines. Notably, articles are also edited by a distinguished and expert editorial advisory board. Articles are succinctly written and richly illustrated with tables, diagrams, and highquality photographs, both color and black-and-white, that clearly illustrate the investigative findings and display important relationships.
The material is presented as a series of alphabetical entries and is well organized so that the reader can readily locate specific information. To that end, three features are provided: “Contents List,” “Cross References,” and an index. A detailed “Contents” section at the beginning of each volume provides a subject’s volume, page number, and a list of its component articles. This article list is repeated on the first page of the respective subject.
Related topics and synonyms are also presented. The extensive cross-references at the ends of articles will lead the reader to additional detailed discussions of a subject, parallel discussions, and to areas that enhance the subject. The subject index is detailed, with three levels of headings, and highlights major discussions, tables, figures, general cross-references, and comparisons. Recommendations for additional reading are another valuable enhancement.