A1 Journal article (refereed)
Oikeuslääketieteellinen kuolemansyyn selvittäminen suomalaisella maaseudulla 1800- ja 1900-luvun vaihteessa (2019)
Forensic death examination in Finnish countryside from the end of the 19th century to the beginning of the 20th century

Luukkonen, I. (2019). Oikeuslääketieteellinen kuolemansyyn selvittäminen suomalaisella maaseudulla 1800- ja 1900-luvun vaihteessa. Thanatos, 8(2), 68-116. https://thanatosjournal.files.wordpress.com/2020/01/luukkonen_kuolemansyyn-selvittaminen.pdf

JYU authors or editors

Publication details

All authors or editors: Luukkonen, Iida

Journal or series: Thanatos

eISSN: 2242-6280

Publication year: 2019

Volume: 8

Issue number: 2

Pages range: 68-116

Publisher: Suomalaisen Kuolemantutkimuksen Seura Ry

Publication country: Finland

Publication language: Finnish

Persistent website address: https://thanatosjournal.files.wordpress.com/2020/01/luukkonen_kuolemansyyn-selvittaminen.pdf

Publication open access: Openly available

Publication channel open access: Open Access channel

Publication is parallel published (JYX): https://jyx.jyu.fi/handle/123456789/67583


In this article I discuss forensic death examinations in Finnish countryside, Jämsä court district from the end of 19th century to the beginning of 20th century. Judicial officers started the death investigation process when the death was unexpected and took place in unclear conditions or when suicide or homicide were suspected. Along with medical development, increase of the number of doctors and the modernization of jurisdiction during the 19th century, medicine became established as a part of the Finnish judicial system. This article studies how this entrenchment affected death investigations. The article focuses on forensic death examinations and doctor’s role in death investigation processes. Article also assesses the weight and bearing post-mortem reports were given in the court. The article is based on Jämsä court district’s trial documents and Jämsä district physician’s archive’s post-mortem reports from 1894 to 1917. Legislation on forensic medicine and doctor’s role in the judicial system has also been examined. Information about practicing forensic medicine compiled from the trial documents and post mortem reports has been contextualised by using a Finnish book about forensic medicine “Oikeuslääketieteellinen käsikirja Suomen lääkäreille” which was written by Theodor Löfström and published in 1901. From 1894 to 1917 the judicial officials in Jämsä inspected in total forty deaths and the causes behind them. Typically death investigation processes proceeded from the police investigation to the forensic death examination and finally to criminal court. In Jämsä court district the forensic death examinations had an essential effect on death investigations and their court proceedings. Eventually not all cases were even taken to the court after the forensic death examination. The prosecutor and the court could leave illness-caused deaths’ and suicides’ investigations to hinge on district physician’s expert opinion. In homicides the causalities between violence or certain poisons and causes of deaths were verified with forensic medicine. District physicians had a significant role also when investigating the deaths of illegitimate, newborn children. By invoking to the post-mortem reports the court declared some of the newborn children’s deaths as natural and discharged the mothers. Also in the cases of infanticide, death-causing violence was proved indisputably in forensic death examinations. Overall, post-mortem report was prime evidence when verifying suicide, infanticide or homicide and for this reason a district physician had authority to court proceedings. At the same time one third of the illegitimate, newborn children’s cases were left unsolved. In some of these cases it was because forensic death examinations weren’t carried out or were carried out not untill the bodies had begun to decompose. However, there are a few cases where the cause of child’s death couldn’t be verified even after conducting an ordinary forensic death examination. These unsolved causes of death, cases where the forensic death examinations weren’t conducted or were conducted too late to discover the cause of death, indicate that forensic medicine’s entrenchment to the judicial system was still incomplete. Cases, where the prosecutor and the court didn’t agree with the district physician’s perception of the cause of death, express this same incompleteness of entrenchment. These cases demonstrate the fact that district physicians had the authority to compile the post-mortem report, but the court had the power to declare the final cause of death.

Keywords: legal history; forensic medicine; causes of death; medical statements; rural communities

Free keywords: lääketieteen historia; rikoshistoria; professionalismi; oikeuslääketiede; piirilääkärit

Contributing organizations

Ministry reporting: Yes

Reporting Year: 2019

JUFO rating: 1

Last updated on 2021-08-06 at 21:27