Medico-legal Practices in the Fifteenth Century Dubrovnik
By Tatjana Buklijaš and Stella Fatovic-Ferencic
Croatian Medical Journal, Vol.45:2 (2004)
Abstract: We analyzed the beginnings of medico-legal practices in Dubrovnik, using the first eight books of criminal records series Liber demaleficiis from the early 15th century.We also looked into the mechanisms of individual and public control of the issues such as the patient-physician relationship and the control of epidemics. At that time, surgeons rather than physicians reported wounds to the court of justice and, in most cases, provided medical expertise when requested by the authorities. Cold steel weapons were the usual instruments of violent offences, and the most frequently harmed part of the body was the head. The expert testimonies formally satisfied the requirements laid down in Dubrovnik normative acts of the time, but their medical content was poor and the vocabulary was a mixture of lay and professional. Although Dubrovnik medical practitioners wrote simple expert testimonies and did not perform forensic autopsy, their involvement in the control of violence and development of the legal system corresponded to the role played by physicians and surgeons in the leading continental European centers of the period.