April 28, 1993

What Constitutes an Expert Witness?

JAMA. 1993;269(16):2057. doi:10.1001/jama.1993.03500160019004

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SEEKING to keep "junk science" from influencing deliberations on a variety of vital matters in the nation's courtrooms, the American Medical Association (AMA) and its journal, JAMA, have each joined with several other scientific groups in filing amicus curiae briefs as the US Supreme Court considers the case of Daubert v Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals Inc.

When is expert scientific testimony to be allowed in court to be heard and weighed by a jury? When and on what grounds is it to be ruled out? For the first time, the Court will try to define the criteria judges should use to decide on admitting testimony by expert witnesses.

The case that led the Court to agree to attempt to resolve the issue came up for argument last month. The plaintiffs allege that the antinausea drug Bendectin is a teratogen that causes limb reduction defects. Action was brought against its manufacturers, now