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Full text of "Medical Jurisprudence And Toxicology"

144

MEDICAL  JURISPRUDENCE

TIME OF DEATH

It is very important from a medico-legal point of view that a medical
iurist should always be prepared to give an opinion as to the time which
elapsed since death, when a body is brought to him for post-mortem exami-
nation The points to be noted in ascertaining the time are warmth or cool-
in£ of theEody, the absence or presence of cadaveric hypostasis rigor mortis
and the progress of decomposition. All these points have been discussed at
full length, but it must be remembered that the conditions producing these
changes° vary so much in each individual case, that only an approximate
time of death can be given.

In addition to these, the time of death can be ascertained with some
possibility from the degree of digestion of the stomach contents, and from
the condition of the bladder and intestines as regards their contents.

It has been ascertained by physiologists ^ that a mixed diet containing
more of animal food and less of vegetable food as ordinarily taken "by a
European leaves the stomach in four to five hours after it is completely
digested, while a vegetable diet containing mostly farinaceous food as usually
taken by an Indian does not leave the stomach completely within six to
seven hours after its ingestion. But this cannot always be relied upon in
determining the time of death, inasmuch as the power of digestibility may
remain in abeyance for a long time in states of profound shock 'and coma,
I have seen food in the stomach remaining undigested in persons who
received severe head injuries soon after their meal and died within twelve
to twenty-four hours afterwards. In one case the food consisting chiefly
of rice and dal (pulse) remained in the stomach for about forty hours with-
out undergoing digestion. It must also be remembered that the process of
digestion in normal, healthy persons may continue for a time after death.

In some cases the time of death may be calculated by examining whether
the Wander or intestines are empty or not. Thus, in the case of an individual
having been murdered in bed at night, one can state that the individual
had" lived for some time after going to bed if the bladder was found fuB
of urine, since people usually empty their bladder before going to bed
Similarly, one can give an opinion that the death occurred some time after
he had got up in the morning if the large intestine was found empty of fserf
matter.

PRESUMPTION OF DEATH

question of presumption of death may arise at the time of inters
tance of property or in obtaining insurance money, when a particular p
has gone abroad and has not been heard of for a considerable time, or
he is alleged to have been dead and the body is not forthcoming. J,
sections 107 and 108 of the Evidence Act of India, if it is shown that a persfi
was alive within thirty years, and there is nothing to suggest the probaBftt
of his death, there is a presumption that he is still alive unless proof be gj!0it
that the same person has not been heard of for seven years by those frfeftfe
and relatives who would naturally have heard from him had he been atejfr
But there is no legal presumption that he died at any particular time dti&(
the seven years. The onus of proving it lies on the person who asserts soft
fact.

PRESUMPTION OF SURVIVORSHIP                        ;

• i~     question of presumption as to survivorship may arise in
with the devolution and distribution of property, when two or more
natural heirs of each other, lose their lives in a common disaster,
earthquake, shipwreck, battle, conflagration, etc.    Section 184 of the «
Property Act of England, 1925, provides that in all cases where two oir
persons have died in circumstances rendering it uncertain which M