In this section
Template for medico-legal reports prepared in order to provide opinion evidence
Professionals working with children may
be required to prepare medico-legal reports as a consequence of their
engagement with children and as part of their professional duties. In
such situations review of case-based material, including medico-legal
reports written by other health professionals might be required. In
other situations requests for a medico-legal report might be made of
health professionals to review case-based material in the absence of
direct contact with a subject. These reviews of case-related material
might also include medical reports written by other medical
Medico-legal reports based of review of
case-related material might be requested for use by statutory child
protection agencies, the Family Court of Victoria, the criminal justice systems, other courts or tribunals.
There are a broad range of reasons why a
doctor who works in the field of Child Abuse Paediatrics/Forensic
Paediatric Medicine might review case-related materials. Review of
case-related material in order to prepare a medical report and/or
testimony on behalf of a person accused of a crime is one such reason.
Review of case-related materials
including case files is (and should be) a process involving objective,
impartial, unbiased scrutiny of case-related material followed by
critical analysis of available evidence. The opinion you provide should
not be influenced by differing reasons for review or the identity of the
purchaser. Review of case material for the defence (that is, on behalf
of an accused) is not a “special case”, free from constraints of peer
review, other quality assurance activities or the usual duties and
obligations of an expert witness.
The following guidelines have been
written to provide advice for Victorian doctors
preparing expert opinion reports in relation to medico-legal matters
Authors are encouraged to ensure that the material provided for review has been lawfully obtained.
As a matter of professional courtesy, and
to enable further communication, reviewers are encouraged to ensure
that authors of medico-legal reports that that have been provided for
appraisal are aware of the additional review process. If the party
requesting the review of case-based material specifically asks that you
do not communicate with other medical practitioners then you will need
to decide whether you wish to perform the case-file review under these
Authors of medico-legal reports are
reminded that their obligation is to the court. The author must confirm
his/her awareness of these obligations as the provider of opinion
evidence. This obligation applies to opinions expressed verbally, in
written reports as well as to testimony in court.
If you believe that most of your peers
could, or in all probability would, reach a different conclusion to
your, and that your opinion is therefore unlikely to be shared by most
of your colleagues, then this observation must be stated. Note that
there is no compulsion, legal or otherwise, for any professional to
merely reiterate a consensus view, but a unique hypothesis or theory
must be clearly identified as such. It would be sensible to provide a
comprehensive explanation of reasons for a rejection of alternative
hypotheses in this situation.
All medico-legal reports should undergo review by a peer prior to release.