What is Medical Jurisprudence?

Mary McMahon

Medical jurisprudence is a broad area of the law integrating medicine and medical practice into legal matters. This ranges from laws setting out legal and ethical expectations for practitioners to the use of forensic medicine to determine cause of death. This is a very old area of the law as documents from many societies dealing with medical jurisprudence and dating back to before the birth of Christ can attest.

An attorney specialized in medical jurisprudence may handle work injury cases.
An attorney specialized in medical jurisprudence may handle work injury cases.

One area of medical jurisprudence involves regulating medical practice. People usually need a license to practice medicine, and the law spells out the different kinds of qualifications for people from dentists to nurses. Care providers have certain ethical mandates as well, such as respecting patient privacy, obtaining informed consent before a procedure, and making sure patients receive adequate and appropriate care. When someone violates the law, it can become a legal matter in the form of a criminal or civil suit.

Medical jurisprudence is a broad legal area dealing with medical-related issues.
Medical jurisprudence is a broad legal area dealing with medical-related issues.

The medicine is also applied directly to legal matters. If there are questions about the competence of a defendant, the court may request a competency hearing to make sure the person can stand trial. Likewise, doctors and other experts may testify in a case about topics like cause of death or injuries on a person who experiences an assault. In civil cases where the liability for injuries comes up, a doctor may discuss topics like injuries sustained in a car accident or as a result of contact with a defective product.

Medico-legal investigation is an important part of medical jurisprudence. This includes evaluating the bodies of dead people to learn more about the circumstances leading up to their deaths as well as the ultimate cause, along with evaluating living people with distinctive injuries. A skilled doctor, for instance, can determine if a child's broken arm is an accident or the result of abuse, and this evidence may become important in a court case. The outcome of such an investigation may be an important part of an attorney's case.

Attorneys specializing in medical jurisprudence can handle cases dealing with medical malpractice, personal injuries, and injuries acquired on the job. As part of their work, they deal with medical experts to prepare and pursue cases. While they are not medical practitioners, these attorneys are often very familiar with the basics of common health issues so they can better serve their clients. An attorney who handles numerous car accident cases, for example, will be able to recognize certain types of injury patterns and can use this to her advantage when pursuing a case in court.

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