The courts may call upon expert witnesses to give their opinion to establish if the required standard of care was or was not maintained by the physician or healthcare facility, against whom a medical malpractice suit has been filed. The testimony of the medical expert witness is considered as medical practice by the ACEP (American College of Emergency Physicians) as the physician expert witness is qualified not just to render an opinion by virtue of their medical degree, but also has the potential to establish standards of care relevant to the case. The opinion given by a medical expert witness holds great value as well as great responsibility, as it can guide the outcome of the malpractice suit. Given the gravity of such a testimony, it is but natural that there will be certain requisite qualifications required to qualify as an expert witness. Given below is a list of the pre-requisites, in order to be recognized as a medical expert witness.
- Should hold a current license within the legal jurisdiction of the US as a doctor of medicine or osteopathic medicine;
- Should be actively practicing clinical emergency medicine for a minimum period of three years prior to the date of the medical occurrence which led to the malpractice suit. However, this three year period cannot include the period of training.
- In case the physician is currently not engaged in practicing clinical emergency medicine, but was doing so during the three years preceding the medical occurrence date; the physician will still be considered as qualified to be a medical expert witness;
- Should be certified in emergency medicine by a recognized certifying entity.
In order to become a medical expert witness, not only does the physician have to qualify as per the above list, but is also expected to follow certain guidelines while providing their views in the case. Failure to adhere to these guidelines can and in most cases does attract severe penalties and disciplinary action.
- The expert witness’s opinion must reflect the state of medical knowledge available at the time that the medical occurrence took place.
- It is important for the medical expert witness to have current experience in the area of testimony along with current knowledge regarding the same.
- The expert witness is required to review the facts of the case and place his testimony in a fair and objective manner without favoring either the plaintiff or the defendant in the case.
- Providing testimony that is misleading, false or bereft of a medical foundation will lead to disciplinary action.
- While the medical expert witness is required to be familiar with the local laws relating to the practice of emergency medicine, their testimony should adhere strictly to the specific definition of negligence as established by the state.
- While solicitation or advertising for being employed as an expert witness is permitted; any misleading, false or deceptive representations in the advertisement or solicitation will bring disciplinary action against the physician.
- There should be no compensation arrangement with either the plaintiff or the defendant that is contingent to the outcome of the case.
- Transcripts of testimonies or depositions will have to be submitted to peer review, if required.
- Expert Witness Guidelines for the Specialty of Emergency Medicine. (2015, June). Retrieved May 07, 2016, from http://www.acep.org: https://www.acep.org/Clinical—Practice-Management/Expert-Witness-Guidelines-for-the-Specialty-of-Emergency-Medicine/