Following the longest hiatus in the history of the Medical Evidence Blog, I return to issues of forensic medicine, by happenstance alone. In today's issue of the NYT is this article about bias in forensic medicine, spurred by interest in the trial of the murder of George Floyd. Among other things, the article discusses a recently published paper in the Journal of Forensic Sciences for which there were calls for retraction by some forensic pathologists. According to the NYT article, the paper showed that forensic pathologists have racial bias, a claim predicated upon an analysis of death certificates in Nevada, and a survey study of forensic pathologists, using a methodology similar to that I have used in studying physician decisions and bias (viz, randomizing recipients to receiving one of two forms of a case vignette that differ in the independent variable of interest). The remainder of this post will focus on that study, which is sorely in need of some post-publication peer review.
The study was led by Itiel Dror, PhD, a Harvard trained psychologist now at University College London who studies bias, with a frequent focus on forensic medicine, if my cursory search is any guide. The other authors are a forensic pathologist (FP) at University of Alabama Birmingham (UAB), a FP and coroner in San Luis Obispo, California, a lawyer with the Clark County public defender's office in Las Vegas, Nevada, a PhD psychologist from Towson University in Towson, Maryland, an FP proprietor of a Forensics company who is a part time medical examiner for West Virginia, and an FP who is proprietor of a forensics and legal consulting company in San Francisco, California. The purpose of identifying the authors was to try to understand why the analysis of death certificates was restricted to the state of Nevada. Other than one author's residence there, I cannot understand why Nevada was chosen, and the selection is not justified in the paltry methods section of the paper.