Subjectivity and pathology
29 August 2012
Charlie Mole | The Justice Gap
Following a controversial death at the hands of the state, evidence presented by the pathologist at inquest or at a trial is absolutely crucial in determining what caused the death, and ultimately, whether anyone should be held to account for their actions.Sometimes the jury will have to make their judgment solely on the testimony of the medical expert if there is a lack of external evidence such as CCTV footage or witnesses.
In deaths involving restraint, either in prison or in police custody, the question of culpability becomes even more acutely important. Were the restraint methods employed by the officers appropriate in the circumstances? If so, should there be a review of the types of restraint used?
During the course of my work investigating deaths in police custody of the Bureau of Investigative Journalism I noticed a trend; time and time again experts commissioned on behalf of the police or the coroner disagreed with the findings of the family’s pathologist. See HERE for more.
One senior forensic pathologist admitted to me that the side that you represent can influence the outcome of your work. I found that shocking. Does that mean juries listening to the so-called impartial evidence of a medical examiner are in fact listening to an advocate representing their client?