Jewish World Review June 24, 2004 / 5 Tamuz 5764
Why it's nice to see medical associations cracking down on not so expert testimony
It seems in almost every case you can buy a so-called expert to say just about anything to support a theory. They're part of the reason our tort system is cracking at the seams that medical costs are soaring. Jurors have become desensitized, I fear, to battling experts. There are always two sides to even the most one-sided issues. No objective truths.
Remember in the O.J. Simpson case the so-called expert came in to say that the photos of Simpson wearing the same shoes as the killer were doctored? Sure, the expert was discredited and disbelieved, particularly after the plaintiffs uncovered more photos of Simpson wearing the shoes seven months before the murders. But in a different context, a different case, maybe his nonsense would have been believed. Doctors have created tribunals to consider complaints about expert testimony.
The National Association of Neurological Surgeons, for example, has been disciplining members for providing testimony the organization considers unsound. If their position is in the minority, for example, they have to say that. Their guidelines mandate that the doctors rely on more than just attorney summaries of the case and that they be neutral observers, not advocates just based on who hires them. The American Medical Association now uses erroneous testimony as a basis for discipline, but of course now some of the doctors for hire are fighting back suing the organizations or individuals who criticize them.
Often these people are people whose colleagues believe are supporting frivolous lawsuits with their testimony. And then, these same people follow it up by filing frivolous lawsuits of their own. It is necessary for doctors to answer not just to a jury of lay people, but to their colleagues. Jurors and judges need help from the real experts and it's nice to see some of them taking their lesser colleagues to task.
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