MEDICO-LEGAL POINTS >305
4. Supposititious Children,—A supposititious child means & fictitious
child. A woman may substitute a living male child for a dead child or a
living female child "born of her, or may feign pregnancy, as well as delivery
and subsequently produce a living child as her own, when she wants to
extort money or to divert succession to property. Such cases occur when
succession to large estates is involved or when money is to be extorted by
In 1922, a case occurred at Ahmedabad, where a young widow abducted, with, the
help of a nurse, from the Victoria Jubilee Hospital, a newly-born child which she passed
off as her own alleging that it had been born after her husband's death (posthumous
child), and pretended delivery while in fact she had had none. In October 1923, a
Bhatia widow3 of Bombay was sentenced to one year's simple imprisonment and a fine
of Rs. 2,000 for having tried with the help of two accomplices, to conceal the fact of
her giving birth to female twins soon after her husband's death by substituting a male
child and claiming a share in the property of her husband. The two accomplices were
also sentenced to various terms of imprisonment.
The medico-legal points that have to be investigated in these cases are—
1. The average duration of pregnancy.
2. The maximum period of pregnancy.
3. The minimum period of pregnancy and the viability of a.child.
1. The Average Duration of Pregnancy.—By the average duration
of pregnancy is meant the period that ordinarily elapses between conception
and delivery. The circumstances taken into consideration in estimating
this period are the date of conception from a single coitus and* the arrest of
menstruation. But neither of these is reliable; a single coitus does not fix
the date of conception, but merely the date of insemination. Modern
observers agree that spermatozoa retain their activity in the vagina for two
to three days at the most, and are capable of surviving in the cervical canal,
uterine cavity and Fallopian tube for four to five days or^ slightly longer.
However, conception usually occurs two to three days after coitus, as
spermatozoa are capable of retaining their power ,of fertilization for about
that period. They lose their power of fertilization long before their motility
The exact time of conception during the intermenstrual period is not
known. It is generally assumed that ovulation occurs about fourteen days
before the commencement of the ensuing menstrual period, and the ovum
(egg-cell) probably perishes in a day or two after it is shed unless fertilized.
Hence fertilization may occur, if a spermatozoon is ready to unite with the
egg-cell in the Fallopian tube about this period.
From the above points it is quite clear that the actual duration of
pregnancy in the female is not known; however, the average period
calculated from experience is-two hundredrand eighty days, or forty weeks,
or ten lunar months. This is equivalent to ten times the normal inter-
menstrual period which is,usually twenty-eight .days. It has been observed
that in women whose intermenstrual period is shorter than the usual time
pregnancy has terminated at the eighth or ninth lunar month or even earlier,,
the'child having attained full development. Sidney H. Waddy4 des
a case in which a^woman, aged 30 years, gave birth to a fall-time dat
after gestation of 210 days—ten times three weeks—which was her
3. Leader, Oct. 20, 1923.
4. Brit. Med. Jour., Jan. 14, 1928, r **