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July 13, 1984

Expert Witness for Whom?

JAMA. 1984;252(2):251. doi:10.1001/jama.1984.03350020053025

Expert witness for the prosecution? Expert witness for the defense? Expert witness for the court? How about unbiased expert witness for the truth?

Elsewhere in this issue, Goldsmith1,2 describes in two MEDICAL NEWS stories the evolving opinion pertaining to the practice of being an expert witness, with particular emphasis on forensic psychiatry, morality, ethics, and law. As the litigious elements of our society have flourished, some components have grown relatively unnoticed. Among these have been the so-called friction costs attendant to litigation before and during a trial. One such by-product has been a burgeoning medical expert consultant and witness business.

Our legal adversary system flourishes both as a tradition and as an expression of the aggressive nature of our society. In contrast to some other societies, advocates here have both the opportunity and responsibility of presenting the best possible case for their side, often using expert consultation and witnesses.