Saturday, 7 November 2009

New website - forensic pathologists in history

A new website is currently under construction by me, providing resources on famous forensic pathologists in history, and their notorious cases.

The website will cover Sir Bernard Spilsbury, Professor Keith Simpson, and Dr Francis Camps initially, but will expand in due course to include Professor Bernard Knight, Sir Sydney Smith and others.

Sunday, 27 September 2009

Forensic pathologists old and new revisited

A recent BBC4 programme - Watching the dead - considered how the portrayal of forensic scientists and pathologists in 'crime dramas' had changed over the past 30 or so years, and in doing so presented a clip of Professor Keith Simpson teaching some students at Guy's Hospital, and being interviewed for the Horizon programme in the 1970s. The programme also featured Professor Bernard Knight explaining how he had tried to inject some realism into those forensic dramas on which he acted as advisor, with little success!

With one nostalgic eye on the past, a read of Andrew Rose's book on Sir Bernard Spilsbury - Lethal Witness - starts one thinking about how one's own work will be judged in the future. As forensic pathological evidence and theory changes over time, it is inevitable that opinion given decades ago will now seem untenable, but that is the nature of 'scientific evidence'. Perhaps we shouldn't view the 'old guard' of forensic pathology so harshly?

Friday, 23 January 2009

Coroners and Justice Bill

The long-awaited Coroners and Justice Bill has been published, having finally been included in the Queen's speach in December.

The Bill repeals the Coroners Act 1988, and Part 1 sets out the duty on Coroners to investigate certain deaths (where the Coroner has reason to suspect that the deceased died a violent or unnatural death, or where the cause of death is unknown, or where the deceased died in custody/ state detention).

Of great interest in the UK is the introduction of reforms of the death certification process, and the Bill sets out a new duty on Primary Care Trusts (England) and Local Health Boards (Wales) to appoint 'medical examiners' to scrutinise, and enquire into, deaths in which doctors have issued Medical Certificates of Cause of Death - a function proposed in a Department of Health consultation last year.

A new duty on medical practitioners to notify the Coroner of a death 'of which they are aware' is also included in the Bill, following a consultation last year by the Ministry of Justice. Regulations detailing the circumstances in which such a death should be reported will apparently follow after enactment of the Bill.

The Bill creates a new Chief Coroner (to be a judge of the High Court or a Circuit judge) who will lead a new national Coroner Service.

The Bill's progress through Parliament will be eagerly followed by practitioners in the UK, and a new post will follow when the Bill receives Royal Assent.