Clinical Forensic Medicine
The division of Clinical Forensic Medicine (CFM) at the Institute provides a range of clinical services and forensic and clinical medical advice to police and hospitals particularly in the investigation of violent crimes against the person, but also in a range of other areas, such as sexual assault, custodial and traffic medicine, and any other cases where clinical medicine comes to the attention of the law.
What is Clinical Forensic Medicine?
Forensic medicine is the medical specialty which interfaces with the law. This umbrella term covers the doctors who undertake medico-legal investigation of death, who are forensic pathologists and those who assess the living in the investigation of interpersonal injury, fitness for interview by police, fitness to drive and other matters that require some understanding of pharmacology, custodial and traffic medicine and criminology.
Clinical forensic medicine has evolved into an increasingly specialised area within the wider field of forensic medical practice. Clinical forensic medical practice encompasses a wide range of activities at the interface of medical practice and the law. Medico-legal services overlap many other medical specialty areas; paediatrics, gynaecology, clinical toxicology, emergency medicine, psychiatry, dentistry and forensic pathology. However, the discipline of clinical forensic medicine has become the field for medico-legal investigation of child and adult sexual/physical assault, traffic medicine and custodial medicine issues that go before the courts. These services are provided by clinicians working either exclusively in the field of clinical forensic medicine, or in the other medical specialties including general practice. Increasingly however, the courts (and other ‘users’ of clinical forensic expertise) are scrutinising the knowledge and background of practitioners providing expert reports and testimony, with an expectation that practitioners have formal qualifications in this field.
Study Clinical Forensic Medicine
The Monash University ‘Master of Forensic Medicine’ program is designed for doctors, dentists and medical scientists who are working in the field of forensic medicine and/or science, or who seek to enter this field. Forensic medicine and science are disciplines which are studied and practiced at a postgraduate level. Forensic medical practice includes the examination of and reporting on victims and perpetrators of interpersonal violence (including sexual violence), assessment of fitness for interview by police, age estimation, traffic and custodial medicine.
Careers in Clinical Forensic Medicine
Support and care of victims is an integral part of the medical services we provide. Our highest priority is to ensure the health and well-being of our patients (whether an alleged victim or alleged offender). The services provided by CFM include:
- Assessment of victims and perpetrators of family violence
- Physical assault examinations and expert opinions
- Sexual assault examinations and expert opinions
- Expert opinions for Police Professional Standards Investigations
- Expert opinions for the Coroner
- Fitness for interview assessments of police detainees
- Clinical Forensic Nursing
- Traffic medicine
- Alcohol, drugs and driving
- Fitness to drive
- Medical aspects of crash analysis
- Clinical aspects of reviewable deaths investigations
- Investigation of the ‘needs of the family’’ in death investigations
- General forensic medical consultations
- Medical assistance for Courts including witness and jury medical assessments and care
Our services are also available to assist in the determination of medico-legal issues in civil or administrative proceedings. While forensic pathologists are involved in the examination of the deceased and provide support and health care advice for the families of deceased persons, clinical forensic medicine practitioners are directly involved in the care of living survivors of crime and alleged perpetrators.
The range of our medico-legal services overlap many other medical specialty areas; paediatrics, gynaecology, clinical toxicology, emergency medicine, psychiatry, dentistry and pathology. Additionally, the discipline of clinical forensic medicine has become the domain of the special issues inherent in traffic medicine and custodial medicine.
Our doctors provide expert advice to court on the effects of alcohol and drugs in relation to driving related offences and where such substances may have impaired the mental state of alleged offenders.
The clinical services include teaching and research. Post-graduate programs in Forensic Medicine are offered through Monash University.
Clinical forensic practitioners include forensic physicians, and forensic nurse examiners. Forensic physicians working at the VIFM provide the bulk of services, supported by a network of specifically trained doctors, usually in general practice, throughout Victoria.
Forensic Nurse Examiners
There are several Forensic Nurse Examiners (FNEs) who are employed by CFM and provide a clinical forensic service within Victoria. The bulk of the Forensic Nursing Network exists in the regional areas and these nurses are able to respond to both victims and offenders of physical and sexual assault, conduct forensic medical examinations and provide medico legal reports for Police. There are also FNEs in the Metropolitan area who provide a clinical forensic service for sexual assault victims and forensic evidence collection.
A group of forensic nurses contracted to CFM provide an after-hours Biological Sample Collection service for the metropolitan area. This is a 24 hour service and is provided 7 days a week. This service includes blood/and or urine collection from suspected intoxicated drivers and other biological samples as required for medico-legal purposes.
CFM Academic Activities
The VIFM provides teaching in the area of Clinical Forensic Medicine to a wide variety of student groups, including undergraduates and postgraduates at Melbourne, Monash, Latrobe and Deakin Universities in medicine, law, science and criminology. In addition, teaching is provided to police members and trainees, defence force personnel, ambulance officers, community service agencies, private organisations and community groups.
A Postgraduate Program in Forensic Medicine is offered by The Department of Forensic Medicine at Monash University. Since its inception in 1999, the program has expanded to the point where it now offers Certificate, Diploma and Masters Programs. Students from the Americas, South East Asia, Africa, Europe and the Pacific region have successfully completed these programs.
The programs aim to:
- · Assist in the establishment of academic standards in forensic medical practice
- · Produce graduates who have a sound and broad knowledge of medico-legal principles
- · Develop practitioners’ skills in providing forensic services in the community
For more information about the courses we offer, visit our Course Information page.
The Master’s Program offers medical practitioners an opportunity to develop advanced knowledge and skills in forensic medicine via distance education. All students commence by enrolling in the Master’s Program. Students can however exit the program at the Graduate Certificate, Graduate Diploma or Masters levels.
Clinical Forensic Medicine Reports and Research
The Report into the System for Dealing with Multiple Child Deaths available at www.dpc.vic.gov.auunder Publications.
The Death Notification Legislation (Amendment) Act 2004 and the Coroners Act 1985 available atwww.parliament.vic.gov.au under Legislation and Bills
The Second Reading Speech for the Death Notification Legislation (Amendment) Act 2004 available at www.parliament.vic.gov.au under Hansard.