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January 12, 1994

Doctors and the Law: Defendants and Expert Witnesses

Author Affiliations

University of Pittsburgh (Pa) School of Medicine

JAMA. 1994;271(2):156-157. doi:10.1001/jama.1994.03510260088038

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Doctors and the Law: Medical Jurisprudence in Nineteenth-Century America, by James C. Mohr, 319 pp, $30, ISBN 0-19-505384-2, New York, NY, Oxford University Press, 1993.

The physician who is a defendant in a medical malpractice action is in an obviously involuntary position, while the doctor who agrees to serve as a consultant and potential expert witness for an attorney does so on a purely voluntary basis. Nevertheless, there are numerous similarities between the two visà-vis lawyers, courts, and the legal process, and both roles are fraught with much danger if the physician is unprepared, legally inexperienced, and naive.

What should a physician do when confronted with the possibility of being sued for alleged professional negligence? How do you react then and later, if the threat of a lawsuit becomes a painful reality?

If your patient sues a third party for personal injuries (eg, automobile accident, product liability, job-related injury), what are your rights and responsibilities as a

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