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Science of applying medical knowledge to legal questions, recognized as a specialty since the early 19th century. Its primary tool has always been the autopsy, to identify the dead (e.g., plane-crash victims) or determine cause of death, which can significantly affect trials dealing with insurance and inheritance. Forensic psychiatry determines the mental health of an individual about to stand trial. Forensic genetics allows paternity to be determined and can identify blood or other tissue samples as coming from a particular person (seeDNA fingerprinting). Forensic toxicology, concerned with such topics as intentional poisonings and drug use, is increasingly important in cases of industrial and environmental poisoning.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on forensic medicine, visit Britannica.com.