Injury interpretation

August10, 2016

Everyone is capable of providing an opinion about an injury: some interpretations are commonsense, some require professional knowledge and some require expert knowledge. Injury interpretation ‘experts’ abound as any Google search will prove. Unfortunately, errors in injury interpretation also abound. Everyone has sustained injuries at some stage during their life and have seen friends and colleagues with injuries. This has resulted in everyone obtaining some degree of experience in interpreting and understanding an injury. Unfortunately, this ‘experience’ is unique to the observer but does not equip one with the necessary broad knowledge and understanding to cautiously interpret what is before them. The interpretation of injuries is not an easy process and is, in many respects, an inexact science. Errors can be made by forensic practitioners, other healthcare professionals and non-medical personnel involved in the medico-legal process. Although an error in interpreting injuries may seem insignificant in the therapeutic context, in the medico-legal setting such errors can be as disastrous as cutting off the wrong leg in a surgical operation. John Gall and Jason Payne-James, in volume 1 of Current Practice in Forensic Medicine, devote an entire chapter to discussing how errors and fallacies abound in the interpretation of injuries in the medico-legal sphere.