Today, we went over cause, manner, and mechanism of death. I then tried to use cases to draw out the students into giving their opinions on cause, manner, and mechanism.
Cause of death is that injury or illness that is incompatible with life.
Manner of death is one of the big five, natural, accident, suicide, homicide, or undetermined. Natural has no violent component, accident is due to the unintentional actions of oneself or others, suicide is death due to the intentional action of oneself, homicide is due to the intentional action of another. We went over the difference between the forensic medical diagnosis of homicide and the legal variants thereof.
We also discussed causation, and the but-for causation that is used in forensic pathology. If one can construct a causal chain, that can link events that but for the previous event, would not have occurred, you’ve got a causal chain.
Medical decision making has been defined, by lawyers, as 51% certainty. I love having a lawyer tell me how certain I am. Frankly, I want someone to be more certain than 51%, or “more likely than not” if they tell me I need a heart transplant, but that’s beside the point. Some folks in the field claim you need a higher standard of proof for suicide, because you’re accusing someone of self-murder. Nonetheless, the statutory definition of reasonable degree of medical certainty is 51%.