Forensic medicine is a profession, which can be as intriguing and captivating as it can get. Forensic doctors are vital to criminal investigations because of their skill to warm up even the coldest trail based on scientific facts. Dr. Tirath Das Dogra, Forensic Medical Expert and Professor of Forensic Medicine, talks to Medindia on the role of medical science in investigations relating to maintaining law and order.
Q. What additional skills does it take for a regular medical practitioner to become a forensic medical specialist?
AdvertisementA. After the mandatory completion of Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS), a doctor can specialize in Forensic Medicine, which is a Doctor of Medicine (M.D) program. So forensic medicine requires knowledge of medical sciences. It is a medical practice for investigative purpose, both civil and criminal, with the intent of aiding law and the administration of justice. I was one of the first few candidates to qualify in Forensic Medicine in 1972 from All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), New Delhi, India.
Q. What are the legal obligations of such a specialized practitioner?
A. Like any other medical doctor of any specialty, a forensic doctor is responsible towards state and law. Doctors are in the service of the society at large.
Q. What lies beyond servicing analyses of crime and murder for a forensic medical specialist?
A. Forensic doctors work more closely with law enforcement officials in their line of work than any other doctor in any other specialty. Their work starts from reporting crime, participating in investigations, performing autopsies and preparing medical reports. Reconstruction of the scene of the crime and DNA profiling are my areas of interest. Toxicology is also an integral part of forensic medicine.
Q. To what extent is a forensic doctor involved in a legal proceeding?
A. It involves toxicological work, contribution in further investigation, analysis of the nature of the injury and the weapon, finding if bullets were used and correlating injury, whether the injury was inflicted with a blunt or sharp instrument. Once the case presents itself, the forensic doctor has to appear in the court of law, submit reports and face cross-examination by defense counsel for the evidence produced. Personally, in my career I have had many cases referred from different parts of India and have had to travel to almost all the states to give legal opinions.
Q. How do you keep yourself emotionally stable or detached when you deal with people at the extremities, such as criminals and victims? In your field where crime is a reality, has it made you skeptical of old school values?
A. Initially it is difficult to deal with the emotions concerning human casualty. But slowly one gets to learn to rise above the emotions, in all situations. The primary purpose of anyone involved in civil or criminal investigation, the police or a forensic medical specialist, is to ensure justice is served. Emotions must not guide or influence the opinion. Analysis and report should be based on and restricted to scientific facts. My values remain with me, but they are personal, whereas my forensic medical practice is my profession. So my profession is influenced by the functioning of the law of the land and in accordance to the norms of investigation.
Q. There are many glamorized television serials with criminal investigation theme. Do they even remotely resemble the real life of a forensic medical specialist?
A. A lot of groundwork is involved in an investigation and on many occasions a forensic doctor will have to be present in the scene of the crime. It is an interesting profession and I enjoy what I do, but it is not as glamorous as they show on TV.
Forensic medicine elicits excitement because of its nature to battle injustice with the aid of medical science. A profession that constantly deals with the exceeding levels to which humans can stretch to cause suffering is truly remarkable owing to its endeavors to solve crimes and serve justice. Medindia thanks Dr. T.D. Dogra for his contribution in highlighting the importance of forensic medicine