“And our legal system hasn’t changed much since then,” she said. “But the kinds of measures that the professional societies are beginning to put into place are a good start. Some expert witness certification programs are starting up and state licensing boards are beginning to take a serious look at this. Ultimately, though, I think the American public would be best served if we took the approach of the United Kingdom, where expert witnesses are paid by the court, not by the litigees.”
Explore This IssueJuly 2006
Money may not be the root of all evil when it comes to expert witness testimony, but the panelists all agreed that it is certainly a contributing factor.
“There are some surgeons out there who reportedly earn up to $750,000 a year providing whatever testimony is required,” Dr. Britt said. “Those kinds of financial stakes certainly have the potential to affect and influence expert testimony.”
Whatever the requirements and regulations imposed by the courts, the panelists also agreed that, ultimately, the responsibility for ensuring the integrity of physicians who stand up as expert witnesses is with the same societies and governing bodies that ensure the integrity of the medical profession.
“This is about giving every patient the opportunity to have an expert or every physician the opportunity to have an expert who tells the truth, who presents factual information and lets the case rest on reality,” Dr. Healy said. “We need to raise awareness and serve notice that experts who engage in unethical or unprofessional conduct will not be tolerated.”
©2006 The Triological Society