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Journal of the Academy of Hospital Administration

Preservation of Exhibits in Medico-Legal Cases in Casualty

Author(s): D.N. Bhardwaj*, Brijender Singh**

Vol. 15, No. 2 (2003-07 - 2003-12)

Abstract:

Proper collection of exhibits is of paramount importance in medico-legal cases. Doctors frequently attend medico-legal cases and many exhibits are preserved as evidence to nab the culprit and administration of justice at large. The present article deals with various exhibits to be preserved in casualty in police/court cases.

Key Messages:

Proper collection of exhibits is of paramount importance in medicolegal cases.

It is the responsibility of doctor concerned to preserve exhibits properly in the interest of justice, and endorse the same in the injury report.

Keywords : Exhibits, Preservations, medico-legal cases

Introduction

It is duty of every doctor to collect and preserve exhibits in proper manner in all medico-legal cases whenever necessary. It is essential to ensure reliability in result obtained. Proper preservation of exhibits is important otherwise there maybe allegation of tempering of evidence or negligence. It is also important that exhibits are transmitted to investigating agencies with proper seals and endorsement in medico-legal injury report.

In a hospital set up various exhibits may be preserved mostly in casualty or at times in ward/OPD/Operation Theatre. The exhibits, which are preserved in casualty, may differ from case to case. The Doctor on duty may have to preserve following items in casualty:

  1. Gastric lavage/vomitus in poisoning cases
  2. Blood in alcoholic/poisoning cases/drug abuse or for DNA test
  3. Clothes in assault/injury/fire-arm/burn cases
  4. Nail clippings in assault/rape cases
  5. Pellets/bullet etc. if recovered
  6. Vaginal swabs/public hair in rape cases
  7. Swabs in un-natural sexual offence cases
  8. Swabs from fire-arm entry wounds
  9. Washing from hands in fire-arm suicide cases
  10. Urine for pregnancy test in rape cases
  11. Undergarments
  12. Swabs from glans penis in rape/unnatural sexual offences
  13. Swab from bite marks for blood/DNA test
  14. Nails and hair in chronic poisoning of heavy metals
  15. Any other material which may be useful in investigation

At times pellets/bullet maybe recovered in operation theatre. Similarly at times some exhibits may have to be collected in OPD/Ward, particularly in old cases. There should not be any discrepancy in item preserved and receipt obtained from investigating agencies. An endorsement of articles preserved should be done on MLR (Medico-Legal Injury Report).

  1. Preservation of gastric lavage: Gastric lavage for chemical analysis is preserved before antidote has been administered otherwise the poison may be neutralized. It is preserved without adding any preservative in glass jars. The jar should not left to accommodate gases which may come out after decomposition. The lid should be left to accommodate gases which may come out after decomposition. The lid should be tight and sealed with molten wax. Then it should be sealed using lakh putting seals of the medical officer.
  2. Preservation of blood: Blood is preserved either for estimation of drug/poison or it may be preserved for DNA test. Blood stains should be preserved intact, 5 ml. ? 10 ml of blood is taken into an EDTA plastic tube and frozen in a deep freezer for DNA purposes. It may be transported after properly lebeling and sealing in a vaccine carrier box, putting dry ice around it. Blood grouping purposes for Forensic Laboratory is preserved in a gauze piece and should be dried.
  3. Preservation of vaginal swabs/anal swabs and seminal stains: These are preserved in sexual offences. A slide should be prepared from vaginal fluid or extract of seminal stain or fresh semen can be taken on a glass slide (If dry 1% HCL can be used). The slide is covered with a cover slip and examined under microscope for spermatozoa. If stain is present on cloths it should be sent in laboratory for Forensic Examination.
  4. Preservation of Urine: It is preserved in poisoning cases. Urine is preserved using thymol crystals.
  5. Preservation of Nails/Hair: Nails and hairs are preserved in chronic poisoning by heavy metals. DNA test can be done from hair root. 15-20 hair should be plucked. Nail clippings are also preserved in assault as well as rape cases, if there was some resistance. In assault and rape cases, beneath nails one can find skin epithelium which can lead identification of accused by DNA fingerprinting.
  6. Preservation of Saliva: Salivary stains can be preserved from teeth bite marks particularly in rape cases. Swab should be taken from suspected area and packed in sterile vial and sealed. DNA test can also be done from saliva.
  7. Preservation of clothes: Clothes are preserved fro detecting trace evidence e.g. blood, semen, saliva etc. It may also be preserved in poisoning cases for any vomitus etc. burn cases and fire-arm cases to detect gun power and near discharge phenomenon. It may also show physical evidence of friction, mark of weapon. Clothes should be first dried without using fan. Wet clothes if packed, will be destroyed due to bacterial decomposition. Every cloth should have proper label and put in a polythene bag which can further be put in a cloth and then sealed. It is done so to avoid setting of clothes.
  8. Preservation of Bullet/Pellets: It any bullet or pellets is recovered, it should be gently put in between cotton. Prior to it weight should be taken and if possible diagram. Rough handling of bullet or pellet may cause artifacts. No of pellets recovered should always be mentioned.

Apart from it any other exhibit e.g. bottle of poison or tablet or weapon if recovered should be properly labeled and sealed. It is essential to give sample of seal on separate cloth/paper putting initials. The endorsement of sample of seal should also be made in MLR.

Conclusion
In the author's view, proper collection and preservation of exhibits is very important for administration of justice. The Doctors working in casualty in a hospital must know what exhibits are to be preserved and how to be preserved in medico-legal cases.

References

  1. Bhardwaj DN, Agnihotri AK. Collection exhibits in medico-legal cases. Souvenir, FSL Crime and Railways JandK (2001):43-44.
  2. Nandy A. Principals of Forensic Medicine, 1996, New Central Book Agency (P) Ltd., ISBN 81-7387-064-8
  3. Parikh C.K. Textbook of Medical Jurisprudence, Forensic Medicine and Toxicology. 6th Edition, CBS Publishers, ISBN:81-239-0675-7
  4. Reddy KSN, The Essentials of Forensic medicine and Toxicology. 16th Edition

* Additional Professor, Forensic Medicine and Toxicology, AIIMS, New Delhi.
** Senior Resident Administrator, Deptt. of Hospital Administration, AIIMS, New Delhi.

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