Medicine on Trial
A Handbook with Cases, Laws, and Documents
by Elisabeth A. Cawthon
March 2004, 333pp, 6x9
1 volume, ABC-CLIO

Hardcover: 978-1-85109-564-3
$75, £56, 63€, A108
eBook Available: 978-1-85109-569-8
Please contact your preferred eBook vendor for pricing.

From Roe v. Wade to John Hinckley, Jr., some of the most sensational 20th-century court cases involved medical evidence, and the forensic pathologist emerged as a celebrity with starring roles in movies and TV shows. What do we find so intriguing about the use—and misuse—of modern medicine?

A provocative presentation of medicolegal controversies within the American court system from the late 19th through the late 20th century.

Medicine on Trial: A Handbook with Cases, Laws, and Documents chronicles the changing role of medicine in the American courtroom during the last 150 years. Integrating legal, historical, and medical perspectives, this comprehensive compilation tackles such public controversies as the “right to die” in the case of Karen Ann Quinlan, Dr. Jack Kevorkian and assisted suicide laws, reproductive rights cases such as “Baby M,” and issues surrounding mental illness.

The book gives special attention to medical personnel as expert witnesses in the courtroom, a challenge which calls into question deeply rooted notions of professionalism and ethics. A series of criminal and bioethics cases highlights the wide range of debates, while a lively discussion presents issues that may become even more controversial in the future, such as DNA testing and artificial reproductive technology.


  • Includes entries on key people such as Thomas Noguchi, laws including the Frye Rule, and key concepts such as informed consent
  • Provides a chronology of the most important events in the history of medicine in the courtroom, including the Baby M and duty-to-disclose cases
Elisabeth A. Cawthon is associate professor of history in the Department of History at the University of Texas at Arlington, Arlington, TX. Her published works include Essays on English Law and the American Experience and Job Accidents and the Law in England's Early Railway Age.


"[A] compelling and well-written volume . . . the author covers each topic completely and thoughtfully, but in a writing style that is straightforward and with language that the general public can understand. . . . It will also have considerable value in communicating to readers the serious and significant factual, ethical, and scientific aspects of reviewing and deciding medical-legal controversies."—American Reference Books Annual, March 1, 2005
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