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Reliability of expert witnesses highlighted in retired surgeon’s perjury confession

Pursuing medical malpractice litigation is an important opportunity for those who have been injured by a negligent physician to win compensation for their injuries, but it isn’t necessarily easy to win a case. Sufficient evidence must be introduced at trial to demonstrate that the physician acted negligently, breaching the accepted standard of care and causing injury to the patient.  

In any medical malpractice case, one of the fundamental tasks of the patient, or plaintiff, is to establish the appropriate standard of care for each negligent action alleged in the complaint. One of the strategies commonly used to do this is to present expert witness testimony regarding the standard of care. This entails securing a reliable expert witness whose testimony can be trusted.  

n using any expert witness, it is critical to establish the credibility of the witness, and that can be a challenging task. As evidence of this, consider a recent story run by ProPublica about a surgeon who lied under oath in order to protect a fellow surgeon from liability in a medical malpractice case. The patient in that case had had a stroke and suffered a permanent disability after an operation. The surgeon who ended up being called in the case to testify about his knowledge of the quality of his fellow surgeon’s work has admitted that he ended up lying under oath.

The court, in that case, returned a decision in favor of the accused surgeon. And while it isn’t clear to what extent the other surgeon’s testimony influenced the outcome, he is publicizing his confession of lying under oath years later in an effort to make amends, even working with the attorney who represented the patient in that case to advocate for patients. To be sure, the surgeon may have a profit motive for doing this, but his warning merits careful consideration for anybody pursuing a medical malpractice claim and who plans on making use of an expert witness.

We’ll continue this story in our next post.

Source: ProPublica, “Doctor Confesses: I Lied to Protect Colleague in Malpractice Suit,” Marshall Allen, Sept. 23, 2016. 

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