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Zimmerman's Research Guide


Medical Materials

Most law libraries have at least a few medical materials. If the collections available to you don't have what you need, the following sources might help you get it.

1. Article Indexes

Medline is generally considered the best general index of medical articles. Medline is available for free on the PubMed Web site and through the National Library of Medicine Gateway. Generally, the NIH site provides better searching (if you click on the Preview/Index link), while the NLM Gateway includes other useful databases. For the best flexible searching, use the Medline version in the Lexis GENMED library or Westlaw (MEDLINE; or use MEDLINE90 to search from just 1990 to the present). For more information on Medline, including other free versions, see Researching Medical Literature on the Internet by Gloria Miccioli.

Other online medical article indexes include EMBASE (on Lexis), AIDSline and Toxline, both free through Medscape and CANCERLIT, free through CancerNet and PsychARTICLES Direct. ProQuest Dialog has searchable medical databases; call their customer service for the most recent information (800-334-2564).

For a quick but not thorough search, try Google Scholar.

{If you find articles you want, the discussion of Document Delivery sources below might help you get them. Alternatively, you might want to search the online sources for full-text materials first, rather than bothering with articles indexes at all.}

2. Dictionaries

There are many good medical dictionaries, including Steadman's Medical Dictionary, the Gould Medical Dictionary, The Sloan-Dorland and, for legal purposes, the Attorney's Dictionary of Medicine. For less esoteric terms, the American Jurisprudence 2nd Desk Book includes glossaries of Medical, Dental and Pathology terms.

Steadman's is available on Westlaw (STEADMANS); the Attorney's Dictionary of Medicine is on Lexis (MATBEN;DICMED). For free, you can search MEDLINEplus, Dorland's Illustrated Medical Dictionary and an abridged Steadman's.

Though not a dictionary, The Merck Manual of Diagnosis and Therapy is a good source for quick, basic medical information. It's posted free on the Merck Web site, along with The Merck Manual of Medical Information (Home Edition) and The Merck Manual of Geriatrics.

3. Document Delivery and Full-Text Databases

Many medical journals post articles online. I generally find them using Google or another search engine. Most are either free allow you to purchase individual articles. Links to free medical journals are posted at FreeMedicalJournals.com.

There are also many online databases with full-text medical materials, including:

The most comprehensive collections are probably PubMed (because it uses the National Library of Medicine collection), the Electronic Collections Online and Ovid.

For copies of articles, book chapters, etc., that are not available online, the following libraries have good medical collections and document delivery services:

(1) The National Library of Medicine (document delivery available from Information Express, 615-812-3570) or the regional branch (e.g., the New York Academy of Medicine);

(2) The University of Minnesota - search the online catalog, then order materials from the InfoNOW (formerly ESTIS) document delivery service;

(3) The Linda Hall Library, 800-662-1545 x701;

(4) The NRC Canada Institute for Scientific and Technical Information (NRC-CISTI), Canada's national science library. Orders are placed with infotrieve;

(5) Reprints Desk;

(6) NYPL Premium Services (which will also get copies from other libraries for you); and

(7) Documents Delivered works out of many libraries at a relatively modest rate; turnaround time is 48 hours generally, or 24 hours for an expedited fee.

For other sources, call local medical schools and/or search OCLC's WorldCat.

4. General Medical Information

If you are looking to find general but reliable and useful information on a medical condition, I recommend the Encyclopedia and search box on MEDLINEplus. Another free resource: Epocrates Online.

The International Classification of Diseases (ICD) is posted back to 1893 with a decoder. The current ICD-9, ICD-9-M, ICD-10 and ICD-10-M are all posted in the Classification of Diseases, Functioning, and Disability section of the CDC web site. The ICDs (and additional explanatory materials) can be purchase in book format from the Coding & Reimbursement section of the AMA Bookstore or from Decision Health or another vendor.

5. Images

Links to collections of medical images are posted by the libraries at the Wake Forest School of Medicine and the NYU Medical School. For additional sources see the "Dictionaries" section of this entry, the separate entry for "Anatomy" and/or Gloria Miccioli's Researching Medical Literature on the Internet.

6. Lending Libraries

Most large academic medical libraries will lend books to other libraries, including law libraries. I believe the Linda Hall Library will too. Also, law libraries can generally become members of the regional branch of the National Library of Medicine.

Rather than waste your time cold calling these libraries, it's generally best to use the Online Catalogs discussed above to find libraries that hold the materials you want to borrow.

7. Medical Records

You can order medical records directly from any medical facility, assuming you are entitled to the records under HIPAA and the other medical records privacy laws. You can also order medical records through LexisNexis Medical Records Retrieval or another retrieval service.

8. Online Catalogs

To find medical treatises, reports, etc., on a particular topic - or by a particular author - search the online catalogs of the National Library of Medicine, the New York Academy of Medicine, the Linda Hall Library or another good medical library, especially one that you know will lend to you. You'll find an excellent collection of links to other medical libraries posted by the National Library of Medicine.

You can use OCLC's WorldCat to locate books, or to find libraries that hold the books you want.

9. Surgeon General Reports

Reports of the U.S. Surgeon General are posted by the National Library of Medicine .

{Thanks to Billie J. Grey for recommending the link to the International Classification of Diseases.}

See Also
Current Procedural Terminology (CPT) Codes
Medical Devices
Medical Ethics
Product Reviews and Related Information

For comments, questions and suggestions, email the author
Copyright 2015 Andrew Zimmerman