(Received 7 September 1971; accepted 23 September 1971)
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In most communities throughout the United States, an adequate medical examination of an alleged rape victim is difficult to obtain. Physicians, residents, and interns who staff emergency rooms are understandably reluctant to become involved in a case which might necessitate testimony in court. Fear of being subpoenaed months to years later, frustrating delays in court while waiting to testify, and harassment by defense attorneys are but a few reasons for refusing to examine the victim. Furthermore, most physicians have had little instruction or experience in the examination of a rape victim. It is essential, however, that an experienced physician undertake the examination, as the guilt or innocence of the accused may depend on medical findings. Misinterpretation of the history, physical observations, and laboratory findings can lead to a serious miscarriage of justice. A guilty verdict usually results in a severe penalty.
Chief medical examiner, Commonwealth of Virginia, Richmond, Va
Pathologist, Arlington Hospital, Arlington, Va
Pathologist, Northern Virginia Doctors Hospital, Arlington, Va
Stock #: JFS10113J