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July 1964

A Fly Practice

Author Affiliations

Calgary Associate Clinic Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Arch Intern Med. 1964;114(1):158-159. doi:10.1001/archinte.1964.03860070204031

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Doctors whose business it is to know something of that "dark cabinet," the human heart, must often ask themselves the question: What is truth? Or again: What of the distinctions involved in a half-truth, in what is commonly called polite truth, or in flat equivocation? These high matters are brought into bold relief by considering a practice that was carried out in quite a few instances in the past two or three centuries, and is a most curious circumstance in medicolegal history. This concerns a ruse in which a live fly was placed in a dead man's mouth after which witnesses swore that "there was life in him." I quote three examples.

The first is from Edward Marjoribank's Life of Lord Carson.

These County Courts were a great school for cross-examination. These simple Irish folk would come to Court with some extraordinary story all rehearsed and learnt by heart. They

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