Written by Lindsay Coulter
WHAT IS MEDICAL ILLUSTRATION? Medical illustration is a multifaceted
profession from the anatomical to cellular level, visualizing and communicating
complex medical concepts.
A medical illustrator is a professional artist with advanced education
in both life sciences and visual communication. They regularly collaborate with
scientists, physicians, nurses and other specialists, pharmaceutical companies,
publishing companies, or small studios specializing in several of these areas,
with the aim of transforming complex medical information into visual images.
Medical illustrators are visual problem solvers. Before beginning work,
they research by reading scientific papers, reviewing operative and radiology
reports, meeting with experts (e.g., scientists, physicians), and observing
surgeries—all of which are an integral part of the creative process.
As with various fields of medicine, it is not uncommon for medical
illustrators to specialize in both a field of study as well as media, including
animation, illustration, or interactive application development.
Medical Illustrations in Court
Speaking of specialization, we are going to review how to utilize
medical illustrations in court. Typically, medical illustrations are used to
describe injuries, surgeries, anatomy, or anatomical landmarks.
Interpretation of radiology, language, and strategy are important for medicolegal
cases. Attorneys appreciate case review and an outline of how artwork will
enhance their cases, as well as visualize injuries. Plaintiff and defense
attorneys are wildly different in strategy and rely on expert professionals to
help them present their case.
Medical illustrations may also be used to support expert testimony in
criminal and civil cases. Illustrations of gunshot wounds and trajectories are
helpful to show the trajectory path and what organs the bullet traversed; explain
suffering and cause of death; or whether the bullet leaves shrapnel and how
that affects the body. Below are some sample illustrations of gunshot wounds
and bullet trajectories.
Diagrams for Documentation
In addition to artistic and specialized illustrations, anatomic diagrams
can support accurate documentation of findings observed during a medical
forensic examination. The Academy of Forensic
recognized the need to have standardized diagrams that can be used to document
normal anatomy, as well as injury findings in a variety of patients with
forensic healthcare needs.
Subtle as well as significant injury is often observed in patients seen
after intimate partner violence, sexual assault, strangulation, elder abuse,
and child maltreatment. The opportunity to utilize standardized, realistic, black-and-white
diagrams to accurately document findings in patients affected by interpersonal
violence will support best practice forensic documentation in multiple arenas.
Examples of the diagrams are below and can be utilized as part of an electronic
medical record or handwritten document in healthcare facilities, clinics, child
advocacy centers, independent practices, or medical examiner offices. These
standardized diagrams can also be utilized in the courtroom to educate the jury
in a criminal or civil trial about injuries that may be difficult to appreciate
with color photos.
Presenting Medical Illustrations
Finally, there are different presentation options. You may opt for
traditional print formats—something tangible that can be left up in the
courtroom for further review, or even passed out to jurors.
In an animation, people are looking for that CSI Effect. Motion
graphics are helpful to show complex surgeries or a medical theory or process
with lots of steps. An interactive application may be beneficial. Interactive
applications give you control to present material at your own pace. You can
make prints of the still artwork to pass out or enlarge.
About the Author
Lindsay Coulter graduated with a BFA in medical illustration from the
Cleveland Institute of Art—with medical classes taken at Case Western Reserve
University. She is also a board-certified medical illustrator (CMI). Coulter works
as a medical illustrator and owns ION Medical Designs, LLC. ION Medical Designs
is a boutique medical illustration company that specializes in custom medical
illustrations, 2D and 3D animations, interactive applications, timelines, VR, and
augmented reality. She creates medical demonstratives for medical malpractice
and personal injury cases to assist attorneys with their demand packages,
mediations, and trials. She helps to create visuals of complex surgeries and
injuries that are compelling and educational for a broad audience. Coulter has
had the opportunity to work on some very high-profile and medically complex
cases globally. To see additional samples of her work, check out the ION
Medical Designs website, YouTube channel, LinkedIn, or Facebook.