6. The Ethical and Medical Aspects of Photodocumenting Genital Injury

  1. John Gall3 and
  2. Jason Payne-James4
  1. P. Brennan1 and
  2. I. Berle2

Published Online: 14 MAR 2011

DOI: 10.1002/9780470973158.ch6

Current Practice in Forensic Medicine

Current Practice in Forensic Medicine

How to Cite

Brennan, P. and Berle, I. (2011) The Ethical and Medical Aspects of Photodocumenting Genital Injury, in Current Practice in Forensic Medicine (eds J. Gall and J. Payne-James), John Wiley & Sons, Ltd, Chichester, UK. doi: 10.1002/9780470973158.ch6

Editor Information

  1. 3

    Royal Children's Hospital and Monash Medical Centre, Melbourne, Australia

  2. 4

    London Hospital Medical College, UK

Author Information

  1. 1

    Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, Sydney, Australia

  2. 2

    Barts and The London NHS Trust, UK

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 14 MAR 2011
  2. Published Print: 4 FEB 2011

ISBN Information

Print ISBN: 9780470744871

Online ISBN: 9780470973158



  • photodocumenting genital injury - ethical and medical aspects;
  • strategies, successfully used by women - in avoiding a sexual assault;
  • sorting out, a ‘date’ from a ‘rape’ - paradigmatic of sexual assault, perspective of alleged offender and victim and forensic clinician;
  • ‘rough sex’, unreflected explanation for genital injury - no more a credible research basis than tenet of ‘injury means rape’;
  • no single universal description of sexual assault, satisfying legal definition - absence of legal definition, covering rape, across cultural, jurisdictional and political contexts;
  • photography, and birth of forensic science - living human body as the crime scene, ethical matters taking precedence over portrayal of evidence;
  • genital injury, degree and pattern - distinguishing it from consensual sex in future studies;
  • ethics of care, objections to investigative tool use - vaginal speculums, anoscopes and cameras, risk of ‘re-raping the patient’;
  • ethical objections, that veto photography in adult sexual assault cases - patient privacy, compromised in examination, and in legal system;
  • question of ‘whose best interests?’ - immediate medical and forensic intervention, and doctrine of best interest


This chapter contains sections titled:

  • Introduction

  • Sexual assault

  • Imaging the body in the history of medicine

  • Photography

  • The evolution of the photography of genital injury

  • A particular Australian's experience

  • Ethics of care

  • Why no ethical objection to children being photographed?

  • The difference that being a child makes and its relevance

  • Advancing the question of best ethical practice

  • Clinical forensic medicine and sexual assault

  • Conclusion

  • References

  • Appendix