Forensic Nursing: Testifying in Deposition


Several years ago, I was summoned for a deposition. Prior to the time of the deposition, I was unsure which case was being tried. It so happens that this particular case was regarding a patient that I helped to take care of.

I was the RN that was on duty the night a 29-year-old female presented after allegedly being raped. As the primary nurse, I triaged the patient. She was not in any distress. I did an initial interview with the patient and documented as such.

In this particular case, I collected the specimens for the rape kit (excluding the vaginal and cervical specimens). I was responsible for the processing of the specimens, labeling the specimens and sealing the kit. After the physical exam was complete and the police officer had interviewed the patient, she confided in me. She stated that after the rape, she took a sharp-edged pocket knife and stabbed the suspect in the right thigh. I asked if she had reported that incident to the police and she began crying. She asked me to swear to secrecy.

As a forensic nurse and understanding the importance of the information that the victim provided to me, I discussed the implications of the act that she had shared. Legally, I had an obligation to report this activity to the police. This information could help the victim to find the suspect.

In the deposition for this case, I was asked specific details about the case. I answered each question that was asked by the defense and the prosecuting attorneys. Although the patient had asked me not to repeat the information about the stabbing, I was asked about the incident by the defense attorney.

There had been a notation about the incident in the police record, but nothing documented in the nursing record. The defense attorney wanted to know why I had omitted this important information. Although my role as a nurse was to collect specimens and provide support, I also was involved in the reporting of a potential crime of a stabbing.

The stabbing was not something that needed to be documented in the medical record as it was a law enforcement issue. My answer to the attorneys reflected my role as a nurse to care for the patient, but the forensic part to address and report evidence.

As a forensic nurse testifying in court, I would need to answer questions that were directed to me appropriate toward the capacity that I was fulfilling at the time of the incident. I would need to answer the questions honestly and to the best of my knowledge.

If I were a expert for a case, I would have to review the case in its entirety. I then would be able to give an opinion based on the type of nursing that was involved. I would only be able to testify to nursing issues involved.

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