Was Dr Killeen Competent To Express he Opinions That He Did?
Dr Timothy Robert Killeen, LRCS (Ireland) 1885; Lic K Q Coll Phys (Ireland) 1886 was a recently qualified doctor & surgeon. Bearing in mind that, under English law, evidence of opinion can only be given by an expert witness, was he entitled to give the evidence he did as to the cause of Martha Tabram's injuries and the nature of the weapon, or weapons, used to inflict them? If not, what, if any, value can be ascribed to those opinions?
The Coroner knows within his county who is suitable to conduct an autopsy. Any local doctor cannot simply volunteer to conduct an autopsy, consent must be given from the Coroner's office.
It is not required that a surgeon identify the weapon used, that is the task of the police. The surgeon merely describes the physical characteristics (measurements) of any wounds found which obviously include determining the size, shape & depth, and the police take it from there.
As a consequence, a surgeons knowledge of weaponry is completely immaterial.
personally I think that only one weapon was used in the attack against Tabram but I still respect Dr Killeen's professional opinion which points in a different direction. Despite a possible lack of experience, he was a qualified surgeon whose testimony is part of the little authentic evidence we have on the case that should not be dismissed without good reason.
~ All perils, specially malignant, are recurrent - Thomas De Quincey ~
Section 21 of The Coroner's Act 1887 was the relevant law for coroners summoning medical witnesses at inquests. This is taken from the fifth edition of Jervis (1888), pp 91-93:
21.—(1.) Where it appears to the coroner that the deceased was attended at his death or during his last illness by any legally qualified medical practitioner, the coroner may summon such practitioner as a witness; but if it appears to the coroner that the deceased person was not attended at his death or during his last illness by any legally qualified medical practitioner, the coroner may summon any legally qualified medical practitioner who is at the time in actual practice in or near the place where the death happened, and any such medical witness as is summoned in pursuance of this section, may be asked to give evidence as to how, in his opinion, the deceased came to his death.
(2.) The coroner may, either in his summons for the attendance of such medical witness or at any time between the issuing of that summons and the end of the inquest, direct such medical witness to make a post-mortem examination of the body of the deceased, with or without an analysis of the contents of the stomach or intestines.
Provided that where a person states upon oath before the coroner that in his belief the death of the deceased was caused partly or entirely by the improper or negligent treatment of a medical practitioner or other person, such medical practitioner or other person shall not be allowed to perform or assist at the post-mortem examination of the deceased.
(3). If a majority of the jury sitting at an inquest are of opinion that the cause of death has not been satisfactorily explained by the evidence of the medical practitioner or other witnesses brought before them, they may require the coroner in writing to summon as a witness some other legally qualified medical practitioner named by them, and further to direct a post-mortem examination of the deceased, with or without an analysis of the contents of the stomach or intestines, to be made by such last-mentioned practitioner, and that whether such examination has been previously made or not, and the coroner shall comply with such requisition, and in default shall be guilty of a misdemeanor.