Is that a scalpel in your bowel? An introduction to Medical-Legal Illustration

With the increase in the number of malpractice and personal injury suits it’s becoming increasingly important to provide adequate visual representation in order to effectively convey medical information to a jury. Can you imagine taking complex medical/clinical information and interpreting it so that a jury with an average high school science education can understand? This is exactly what a medical-legal illustrator specializes in. He or she not only has a strong science background, but a good understanding of legal terms and proceedings. And good for them, because just wrapping my head around complex medical concepts is enough for me.

Medical-legal illustrations are often done as multiple images on one board. They can also be presented in a computer presentation. They are accompanied with text/labels and often appear with x-rays, CT, or MRI scans of the patient or victim. For examples of medical legal illustration, please take a look through the portfolio of MediVisuals.

That’s another plus of having medical illustrations in a trial; cutting down on the gory images. Imagine what the real photo of the person in the above illustration looked like! Often times when we are presented with graphic images we are too consumed with the shock to pay attention to the educational information. Medical illustrations function to highlight specific details and leave out the bloody mess, because really, who needs to see that?

In addition to making the illustrations clear, persuasive, educational, and pretty, they also need to be admissible as evidence in court. This means that the illustrations cannot be unfairly prejudiced, confusing, or misleading in any way. If the opposing counsel feels that the illustrations do not portray the facts, they can object to it. If the evidence is thrown out, there goes all your hard work producing those illustrations, so it is especially important that everything is accurate.

Medical-legal illustrators aren’t in it for the recognition of their work. Their illustrations are viewed as evidence and nothing further. Illustrations may simply be thrown out after a trial is over. 3D illustrations and animations are rarely used, but when they are it’s usually for very serious cases with a lot of funding behind them. The reason for this is because animations are difficult to produce, expensive, and take a lot of time. Usually for trials, lawyers want illustrations done quickly and cost-effectively (actually that doesn’t differ from most clients).

So, medical-legal illustrators work hard to create illustrations and legal exhibits that are aesthetically pleasing, accurate, well designed, and neatly presented in order to make that crucial positive impact on the jury.



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