Medical Illustration as Demonstrative Evidence

Publication year1987
CitationVol. 16 No. 10 Pg. 1852
16 Colo.Law. 1852
Colorado Lawyer

1987, October, Pg. 1852. Medical Illustration as Demonstrative Evidence


Vol. 16, No. 10, Pg. 1852

Medical Illustration as Demonstrative Evidence

by Thomas O. McCracken

One of the earliest recorded uses of demonstrative medical evidence was by Abraham Lincoln in 1857 in the malpractice case of Fleming v. Crothers.(fn1) Plaintiff Fleming had fractured a leg, and Dr. Crothers attended him. The result was a shortening of the injured leg, and Fleming sued Dr. Crothers for damages. Lincoln represented the doctor, who explained to the court how nature repaired fractures and that, because of Fleming's age, there was a deficiency of the bone-repair material. The shortening was due to natural causes, not to improper or unskillful medical treatment. Lincoln demonstrated the truth of this contention by the use in court of chicken bones that Dr. Crothers had prepared. These bones showed, by comparison, the changes due to age.

That was a vivid example of the use of demonstrative medical evidence in legal work over 100 years ago. Its use has increased dramatically in the last 100 years. At present, the use of demonstrative medical evidence is widely advised by many well-known attorneys.

This article discusses medical illustrations, one of the most effective types of technical medical evidence used in the courtroom. Surprisingly, lawyers often fail to take advantage of such illustrations.

Purpose and Advantages In the Courtroom

A lawyer entrusted with the trial of a personal injury case on behalf of an injured plaintiff must be knowledgeable of merchandising methods, because in the courtroom the lawyer becomes a "salesman" of sorts. In order to fulfill an assignment, the lawyer must be able to utilize means, methods and media that will arouse and sustain the interest of jurors. Graphic, attention-arresting and attention-holding visual devices achieve this result.

It is a well-recognized fact that we retain in our memories about 85 percent of what we see as compared to 10 percent of what we hear. The ear may only register a limited amount, but the eye is more accurate. The modern trial advocate must be thoroughly conversant with trial techniques that utilize visual aids to translate the impact and importance of physical injuries to a jury.

Proper preparation of a personal injury case and skillful presentation of the issue of damages, pain and suffering...

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