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June 30, 1975

The Medical Expert Witness In Malpractice Suits

Author Affiliations

From the Department of Surgery, Northwestern University Medical School, Chicago, and the departments of neurology and neurological surgery, Bowman Gray School of Medicine, Winston-Salem, NC.

JAMA. 1975;232(13):1352-1353. doi:10.1001/jama.1975.03250130036017

THE COURTROOM is alien country to many physicians, and the behavior of lawyers incomprehensible. A subpoena to serve as a witness or the request to be an expert witness strikes fear into the hearts of many physicians. Some have a mental picture of cross-examination comparable to an inquisition. "He will attempt to demonstrate my ignorance." "He will cast unfavorable reflection on my integrity and my motives." "He is not in search of the truth. He is only out to win a case." To varying degrees, these fears may be justified, but they should not prevent the physician from serving as a witness when he is needed, nor should he feel intimidated to the point where he is not able to collect his thoughts and express himself adequately.

At the outset, it is important that the physician have a clear picture of his situation. He is in the unusual position, for