Drawing by Harold Rydberg.
The medical evidence in the JFK case may be gory and unpleasant, but its importance is hard to overstate. Defenders of the Warren Commission point out that several medical bodies have concluded that President Kennedy was struck by two shots, both from behind, and that this is powerful evidence implicating Oswald as the lone gunman. But each medical body in turn, while "supporting" previous conclusions, has overruled earlier findings of the most basic sort. The HSCA's prestigious medical panel, for instance, declared that the fatal shot which struck Kennedy’s skull was mis-measured by the autopsy team by about 4 inches!
The history of the amazing twists and turns in the medical evidence, starting with an abysmal secretive military autopsy, can and has filled several books. The Warren Commission posited a "single bullet theory" to explain all the wounds with three shots fired, and this idea has been subjected to much analysis and ridicule.
Other areas of controversy include the widely differing description of the wounds by participants and medical experts, missing autopsy photographs, and indeed the authenticity of autopsy materials including photos and X-rays. Controversial even among those who dispute the official medical findings is author David Lifton’s "body alteration" theory, which explains some of the medical puzzles by positing surreptitious pre-autopsy procedures.
The ARRB took new medical testimony from autopsy witnesses and others in the 1990s, and released formerly-secret HSCA medical depositions and documents. These eye-opening materials have altered the debate about the JFK medical evidence.
Single Bullet Theory - The Warren Commission posited a "single bullet theory" to explain all the non-fatal wounds with a single shot. Is this possible?
The Moving Head Wounds - Was there a large wound in the back of Kennedy's head - evidence of a frontal shot - as the Parkland Hospital doctors said? Where is the fatal entry wound, and why did the HSCA medical panel place it 4 inches away from where it was measured at the autopsy?
Autopsy Photos and X-Rays - Autopsy photos are missing, according to the participants themselves. Are all of those that remain authentic, including the ones which show no damage to the back of JFK's head?
Body Alteration? - David Lifton's Best Evidence claims that the President's body was diverted and surgically altered prior to the autopsy. Fantasy or evidence of a coup?
Connally Wounding - Were all of Governor Connally's wounds caused by a single bullet, and if so did that same bullet first pass through JFK, and later turn up on a hospital stretcher?
ARRB Medical Testimony - In the mid-1990's, the Assassination Records Review Board interviewed many medical witnesses and heard some eye-opening stories. What were they told?
The Missing Physician - The President's personal physician, George Burkley, was in the motorcade, was present at both Parkland Hospital and the Bethesda autopsy, signed the death certificate, verified autopsy papers, and apparently took charge of the President's brain (which then went missing). Why did the Warren Commission fail to interview him?