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The physician and author John Ayrton Paris (1785-1856), several of whose other medical and popular works have been reissued in the Cambridge Library Collection, and his co-author J. S. M. Fonblanque (1787-1865), barrister and administrator, published this three-volume work in 1823.
It remained almost the only work on the topic of medical jurisprudence for many years. The authors define the term as 'a science by which medicine, and its collateral branches, are made subservient to the construction, elucidation, and administration of the laws; and to the preservation of public health'.
Volume 1 considers the context: the professional colleges and their powers and privileges, and historical cases involving a medical practitioner. It also deals with areas of the law where medical evidence may be needed: matrimonial and childbirth issues; insanity; public nuisance (e.g. pollution); and the adulteration of food. The volume ends with the first part of a consideration of unnatural death.
Volume 2 continues the discussion of homicide in all its various aspects (including suspicious deaths which might in fact be accidental): suffocation, drowning, hanging, and battery. Proceedings at coroners' inquests are described, and there is a very extensive section on the various types of poison.
Volume 3 continues the discussion of homicide, dealing with abortion and infanticide, rules for dissection, and issues of criminal responsibility, such as pleas of insanity. This is followed by a 'synopsis of the objects of inquiry in cases of sudden death', and an appendix presenting many illustrative historical cases. The book ends with a comprehensive index to all three volumes.