Forensic epidemiology for better evidence-based judicial medicine

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Putri Dianita
dr. Putri Dianita Ika Meilia, Sp.FM (Source: PRIVE. DOC

Jakarta, IO – Even though forensic medicine expert opinion plays an important role in the justice system, the methods used to formulate these opinions are not always standardized – let alone evidence-based. Expert statements are frequently made erroneously, using an ambiguous format or language that makes them unintelligible to law enforcement officers, judicial officials, and the layperson. They frequently form the basis of erroneous judgment, which is bad because court judgments change people’s lives forever. Therefore, it is crucial for expert opinions to be clearly formulated, evidence-based, and scientifically accountable. 

“In forensic medicine, the formulation of expert statements mostly relies on ‘common sense’, which is a misnomer, because it is actually just the personal and anecdotal experiences of the individual forensic expert, or knowledge ‘inherited’ from their individual professors during their studies that they never bothered to prove, instead of something that everyone knows to be true because it has been frequently proven in everyday society. Because of this, the formulated opinion frequently does not include the latest medical developments, and is therefore not professionally accountable. In order to solve this problem, a research team from Maastricht University, Maastricht, the Netherlands, developed the INFERENCE (INtegration of Forensic Epidemiology and the Rigorous EvaluatioN of Causation Elements) approach. Our justice system then adapted this approach for use in the specific situations and conditions faced by forensic doctors in Indonesia, and named the new approach i-INFERENCE (indonesian-INFERENCE),” reported dr. Putri Dianita Ika Meilia, Sp.FM, forensic medicine and medicolegal specialist, in her remote/physical hybrid Doctorate Thesis Defense, held on Tuesday (17/01/2023). 

Up to now, there have been no universal guidelines for creating forensic medicine reports. This means that there is no standard format, scope, or content guidelines for this important document, which makes it hard for our justice system to maintain quality assurance of its forensic reports. Therefore, we need a report guideline to be included in all forensic reports, which should include the way to create evidence-based forensic reports. Such guidelines have been developed by the same Maastricht University Research Team and called PERFORM-P (principles of evidence-based reporting in forensic medicine-pathology version) recommendations. Again, the PERFORM-P recommendations were then modified to suit the specific forensic medicine needs and situations in Indonesia, and the results are named i-PERFORM-P (indonesian-PERFORM-P).