NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Reviewing Medical Testimony

August 25, 2003

Many medical societies are creating tribunals to review the expert testimony given by doctors who act as witnesses in medical malpractice trials. The American Association of Neurological Surgeons started the trend, and at least 10 others are considering the idea.

Supporters say that peer-review of expert testimony will prevent, or at least reprimand doctors for, fraudulent testimony in court:

  • Grievances must be filed by other doctors in the medical society; the accuser must prove "unprofessional conduct" on the part of the accused doctor -- not merely a difference of opinion.
  • Doctors whose testimony is not approved by the tribunals can be suspended or expelled from the medical societies they belong to.
  • Robert Peck, president of the Center for Constitutional Litigations, claims that the tribunals are meant to intimidate expert witnesses from testifying.
  • Albert Strunk of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists says that far from preventing poor-quality testimony, review boards will simply "play into the hands of the personal injury lawyers."

The American Medical Association supports the growing trend of testimony tribunals as an important part of making sure that doctors practicing medicine are reviewed by their peers to ensure accuracy and safety.

Source: Adam Liptak, "Expert Medical Witnesses Face Review: Lawyers Say Move Intimidates Doctors," San Francisco Chronicle, July 6, 2003.

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