Television has brought forensic medicine into everyone’s living room, but the reality of the discipline is far removed from these dramas. But what really is clinical forensic medicine and what is this discipline’s role in the investigation of suspected child abuse? Although the assessment of alleged abuse cases may seem straight forward, controversies exist that have major implications. Drawing on case material, the approach taken in a clinical forensic assessment of an alleged abused child will be discussed with consideration being given to the pitfalls of injury interpretation, the controversies, the reliance on specialist opinions, and how to ensure a successful outcome within the legal system.
Dr John Gall is a forensic physician, an Associate Professor in the Department of Paediatrics, University of Melbourne, a consultant in the Victorian Forensic Paediatric Medical Service and the current President of the International Association of Clinical Forensic Medicine.