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Ethical dilemmas in forensic medical practice


I. D. G. Kitulwatte ,

Faculty of Medicine, Ragama, LK
About I. D. G.
Department of Forensic Medicine
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P. A. S. Edirisinghe

Faculty of Medicine, Ragama, LK
About P. A. S.
Department of Forensic Medicine
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Forensic practitioners need to ensure that basic medical obligations towards individual patients, judiciary and the public are met while balancing their responsibilities to these parties. Unlike in clinical practice the patient does not present for treatment but for forensic evaluation. Even so, medical practitioners are expected to ensure that ethical standards like for any other medical discipline are maintained in medicolegal practice.


At a forensic medical examination, there is an obligation to act in the best interest of the patient and to attend to his/her critical needs. However, attending to the needs of the patient may be viewed as taking undue interest or being fractional by the judiciary. On the other hand, in medical practice, responsibility to patients should overide the interests of third parties.


In examination of the dead for medico-legal purposes, the question that can arise is whether there is actually a doctor patient relationship since the examinee is already dead. While there is a duty towards the judiciary to find out the truth about the cause and manner of death there is a duty towards the relatives of the deceased to reveal the true findings especially after having contact with them at the preliminary inquiry.


Many of the conclusions made in forensic practice are matters of opinion, and therefore, disagreement is expected which can lead to personal friction specially in handling cases of medical negligence. If forensic practitioners follow the basic principles of medical ethics, while maintaining the highest standards based on scientific evidence they can overcome the majority of the conflicting issues and can perform their duty in the administration of justice.
How to Cite: Kitulwatte, I.D.G. and Edirisinghe, P.A.S., 2019. Ethical dilemmas in forensic medical practice. Sri Lanka Journal of Forensic Medicine, Science & Law, 10(2), pp.3–6. DOI:
Published on 05 Dec 2019.
Peer Reviewed


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