AAP Issues Expert Witness Policy

The American Academy of Pediatrics has issued a Policy Statement titled "Guidelines for Expert Testimony in Medical Malpractice Litigation.  

After reviewing the role of the expert witness in medical malpractice litigation, the Guidelines begin the "recommendations" section of the paper with this statement:

The AAP recognizes that physicians have the professional, ethical, and legal duty to testify as called on in a court of law in accordance with their expertise. Physicians serving as expert witnesses have an obligation to present complete and unbiased information with which the trier of fact can ascertain whether the defendant was medically negligent and whether, as a result, the plaintiff suffered compensable

injury and/or damages. At this time, the best strategies for improving the quality of medical expert witness testimony are strengthening the qualifications for serving as a medical expert and providing more specific guidelines for physician conduct throughout the legal process.

The recommendations include the following:
To meet that obligation, physicians agreeing to testify as experts in medical negligence cases should conduct themselves as follows:
1. Regardless of the source of the request for testimony (plaintiff or defendant physician), expert witnesses should lend their knowledge, experience, and best judgment to all relevant facts of the case.
2. Expert witnesses should take necessary steps to  ensure that they have access to all documents used to establish the facts of the case and the circumstances surrounding the occurrence.
3. Relevant information should not be excluded for any reason and certainly not to create a perspective favoring the plaintiff or the defendant.
4. The expert witness’s opinion should be fair and objective. The expert witness should be comfortable with his or her testimony regardless of whether it is to be used by the plaintiff or defendant.