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the jury to adopt his venal assertion in preference to the unbiassed opinions of medical men.
Dr. Taylor, in the above passage as elsewhere, is, we believe, justified in the use of most of his expressions; but, notwithstanding all his experience, we perceive that his notion of the duty and position of an advocate in English courts of law, partakes of the error which we commonly find, and expect to find, amongst wellinformed people. “Venal assertion” is not the correct term for the language of counsel. Dr. Taylor himself is paid, and properly 80, for giving evidence. For his assertions in the witness-box he is remunerated—we might call them venal in the primary sense of the word, as they are in one sense bought; so the arguments and forensic powers, when exercised by counsel, are in like manner venal. The assertions of the latter, however, are not venal. They are valueless, and therefore not marketable, unless supported by evidence.
It may be that the principle of advocacy is altogether immoral, and that no one, lawyer or layman, should promote the cause of plaintiff, defendant, prosecutor, or prisoner, until he has first examined the matter, and been persuaded of the truth and righteousness of a litigant's cause—i. e., until he has first constituted himself judge and jury. But at present it is thought that justice is better secured by allowing advocates on both sides, whose functions shall be distinct from that of the court. Most questions have, as experience shews, at least two sides; and it is better that each side should be presented by a different individual, and be submitted to hostile examination of professed opponents.
To define the limits of the advocate's duty, is almost as difficult as Dr. Taylor finds it to define the limits of the terms poison, or of medicine. These limits are, doubtless, often transgressed by those whose moral sense is blunted; but they are more often wrongly supposed, by the ignorant, vulgar, and prejudiced, to have been transgressed, when, so far from this being the fact, the interests of the client would have been betrayed, and truth sacrificed, if any other course had been pursued. Nor has Dr. Taylor, 80 far as our personal observation extends, any cause to complain
of his treatment by the bench or bar. He is personally respected, and regard for his merits is shewn in a marked manner. His opinion and statements, wherever we have seen him giving evidence, have been received with the utmost attention. The exactitude, propriety, and pertinence with which he delivers his testimony in a court of justice, awaken the admiration of every body competent to judge of his difficult and responsible duties. IIe possesses a rare and valuable combination of qualities. To great scientific accomplishments, practical skill, and enlarged experience in delicate chemical analysis, he adds the power of happy expression, and extraordinary ability in conveying to ordinary minds, and the untrained intellects of jurymen, the results of his studies and investigations. Cross-examinations do not seem to ruffle him, nor comment in court to disturb him; and, if we might offer a word of advice to him, it would be not to be chagrined, or exhibit annoyance, after he has left the court, by a recollection of the antagonism or detractation of other and less respectable persons, or by recalling the criticism and observations to which his evidence, like that of all witnesses, must and ought to be exposed.
Although we boast that modern science not only saves the innocent, while it brings the guilty to justice, yet we ought carefully to note what are its capabilities, and where it fails, through the ascertained means and known tests proving ineffective, or through the rashness or vain pretensions displayed by analysts. To be able to discover the four-thousandth part of a grain of strychnine in an ounce of blood, is a claim, it would appear, which certain experts have made. The one-thousandth part of a grain, it is conceded, can, under certain circumstances, be detected But the practical question in medical jurisprudence is, can such an infinitesimal dose be given to a living animal, and can the poison afterwards be separated from the blood ? And this is proved to be impossible. A candid expert would draw the distinction between the experiment he makes with the pure poison, and those he tries in seeking small quantities diffused through the dead blood and tissues. There are limits to the amount of scientific knowledge at any particular period, as well as to those of ingenious
experiment; there are none to the dogmatism of vain and
In connection with this subject is a remark of Dr. Taylor, which is worthy of consideration. He says—“It cannot be denied that the great facility with which chemical analysis is applied to the detection of most mineral poisons, is due to the ignorance of those who criminally administer them. A mineral poison is frequently given in the form of a loose powder undissolved, and it is then capable of analysis.” But the author proceeds to give instances where toxicological science has been brought to bear by the miscreant, so as to baffle the scientific "detective,” as the analytical experts are sometimes discourteously called. Dr. Taylor, too, will recollect a case in Essex, where, as it has been alleged, and with great probability, a woman was tried on a charge of poisoning, and being acquitted (though no
doubt guilty), she acquired so much useful knowledge from the evidence of the medical witnesses during the trial relating to the properties and mode of administering of arsenic, that on her liberation she renewed her practice with her fresh information, which, nevertheless, did not avail her altogether, for she was eventually caught, tried, and hanged, as an Essex arsenic poisoner.
With respect to a fallacy often repeated in courts of justice, Dr. Taylor makes some useful remarks. He observes, " that the quantity remaining in the stomach, or the portion of absorbed poison deposited in the tissues, can give no idea of the quantity actually taken by the deceased ; since more or less of the poison may have been removed by violent vomiting and purging, as well as by elimination. But the quantity found free in the stomach and bowels, even after a portion has been thus lost, is often more than sufficient to destroy the life of a human being. It is singular that, notwithstanding the existence of these very obvious and natural causes for the removal of a poison from the stomach, barristers should so frequently address the inquiry to a medical witness, whether the quantity of poison found in the body was sufficient to cause death? Whether this question be answered in the affirmative or negative, is a matter which, medically speaking, cannot at all affect the case; since either no traces of poison, or but a very small portion, may be found in the viscera, and yet the deceased may have assuredly died from its effects. Absorbed arsenic, as it exists in the tissues, is never found except in very minute proportion, a proportion commonly insufficient to destroy the life of another. Hence, whether much or little be detected, the object of this question is not very apparent; since the fact of death having been caused by poison does not, in the least degree, depend upon the precise quantity which happens to remain in a dead body. It has been truly remarked by Orfila, in regard to arsenic, and it equally applies to all poisons, that that portion which is found in the stomach is not that wbich has caused death, but the surplus of the quantity which has already produced fatal effects by its absorption into the system. The inquiry should therefore be directed to the probable quantity of poison taken, not to how much remains in the body. This question is one of more importance than may at first sight appear. There is scarcely a trial for criminal poisoning in which it is not put to a medical witness, either by the judge or the counsel, for the prosecution or defenceSupposing poison to be found in the stomach, but not in sufficient quantity to destroy life, is it therefore to be assumed that the person did not die from its effects ? This would be equal to laying down the doctrine, in face of the most indisputable evidence to the contrary--that poisons, when taken into the body, are never liable to be expelled by vomiting or purging, or to be removed from the stomach by absorption, and carried out of the body by elimination. The real object of a toxicologist is to discover the poison by clear and undoubted evidence. If more than sufficient to cause death be found in a dead body, then the dose must have been larger than was necessary ; but if this proof be always required, what is to become of those cases of criminal poisoning in which the prisoner administers a dose only just sufficient to destroy life; or in which the deceased, by the strength of his constitution, happens to survive the effects for some days or weeks, and ultimately dies of exhaustion ? No poison would be detected under these circumstances. Orfila has most completely demonstrated the fallacy of this olujection to medical evidence, and the danger of a court of law relying upon it.
"As an illustration of the kind of cross-examination which a medical witness must be prepared to undergo on this question, I subjoin an extract from the report of the trial of Reg. v. Palmer (May, 1856). Serjeant Shee, in directing his questions to me, thus deals with the matter :
"Q. Have you not told me to-day that the quantity of antimony that
you found in Cook’s body was not sufficient to account for death? A. Perfectly so; but what was found in Cook's body was not all that he took. If a man takes antimony- Q. Do you wish to add to your testimony? A. I do; because I see it is only a little misunderstanding. If a man takes antimony it produces these effects :—first, he vomits, by which some passes out of the body; some may escape by the bowels; there is a