A significant task confronting the College is to begin to develop a curriculum. There are two streams, legal and forensic, each of which shares core knowledge as well as its own specific requirements. The Basic Law Intensive (BLI), the Advance Law Intensive (ALI) and the Expert Witness (EW) Course are designed to provide an intensive exposure to the College curriculum but cannot cover all areas of knowledge and are not sufficient on their own to achieve Fellowship or Membership qualifications.

For a Fellowship qualification, the College Articles of Association currently requires, inter alia, a Master level qualification in legal medicine or forensic medicine, or a Bachelor level legal degree. For a Membership qualification, a diploma level degree is required, as well as the BLI, ALI and the EW course. Common to both Fellowship and Membership is the requirement to complete an examination conducted by the College. Waiving the examination requirement should be the exception, not the rule.

Competencies common to both the legal and for​​​​ensic streams include:

  • Statement and report writing (detailed knowledge)
  • Court processes, procedures and evidence law (detailed knowledge)
  • Giving evidence in court; theory and practical (detailed knowledge)
  • Health care framework in Australia and New Zealand (basic knowledge)
  • Health ethics (detailed knowledge)
  • Confidentiality (detailed knowledge)
  • Privacy and medical records (detailed knowledge)
  • Regulation of health professionals (basic knowledge)
  • Consent and children (basic knowledge)
  • Consent and adults with impaired capacity (basic knowledge)
  • Trespass to the person (basic knowledge)
  • Refusal of treatment (basic knowledge)
  • Clinical negligence (basic knowledge)
  • Beginning of life; abortion, ART, surrogacy, wrongful birth (basic knowledge)
  • End of life; withholding/withdrawing medical treatment, euthanasia, doctrine of double effect (basic knowledge)
  • Criminal law; manslaughter (gross clinical negligence), sexual assault, non-sexual assault (basic knowledge)
  • Coronial law; unnatural deaths, unexpected deaths following health procedures (basic knowledge)

The specific requirements of the legal stream include:

  • Trespass to the person (detailed knowledge)
  • Refusal of treatment (detailed knowledge)
  • Consent and children (detailed knowledge)
  • Consent and adults who lack capacity (detailed knowledge)
  • Clinical negligence – duty (detailed knowledge)
  • Clinical negligence – breach of duty and standard of care (detailed knowledge)
  • Clinical negligence – causation (detailed knowledge)
  • Clinical negligence – vicarious liability and non-delegable duty (detailed knowledge)
  • Clinical negligence – defences (detailed knowledge)
  • Personal injury law (detailed knowledge)
  • Criminal negligence (detailed knowledge)
  • Wrongful birth (detailed knowledge)
  • Withholding/withdrawal of life sustaining measures (detailed knowledge)
  • Euthanasia and assisted suicide (detailed knowledge)
  • Disciplinary law and the regulation of health professionals (detailed knowledge)

The specific requirements of the forensic stream include:

  • Child protection – physical, emotional and sexual abuse (detailed knowledge)
  • Sexual offences – adult (detailed knowledge)
  • Death scenes (detailed knowledge)
  • Injury interpretation (detailed knowledge)
  • Clinical toxicology (detailed knowledge)
  • Traffic medicine (detailed knowledge)
  • Custodial medicine (detailed knowledge)
  • Insanity and diminished responsibility (detailed knowledge)
  • Health related deaths in the coronial jurisdiction (detailed knowledge)
  • Police powers and responsibilities (detailed knowledge where relevant)

Goals and learning objectives will need to be developed for each area, with content directed with reference to recommended texts, court judgments and relevant journal articles. The focus will essentially be academic in nature, expressed in a practical way through report writing and giving evidence in court. The emphasis will however, always remain on the law and clinical practice.

With respect to assessment of knowledge and skills gained, it is envisaged that the examination will be both written and oral. The written examination would likely be of two parts. The first part would involve core competencies common to each stream, made up of multiple choice questions and short answer questions. The second part would be specific to the legal or forensic stream, adopting a similar format.

The oral examination would likely involve a moot court scenario (examination-in-chief and cross examination on a prepared statement or report), and a number of oral scenarios (core and stream specific) requiring real time responses.

In summary, developing a detailed curriculum will form a framework on which the College can plan courses and examinations relevant to the legal and the forensic medical streams. It will also allow the College to further refine the CPD requirements to ensure members remain competent in their respective fields. Closing the loop would be achieved by evaluating the effectiveness of the curriculum, obtaining feedback and making improvements as required.

As one can see, much work needs to be done. What has been outlined above is designed to encourage input into the process and I would welcome any comments or recommendations from the membership so it can be as relevant as possible for both current and future members.

Don Buchanan
ACLM Secretary & Treasurer, August 2014