Advocacy

Expert Witness Testimony in Forensic Cases

Adoption Date:
December 1, 2000

Public Policy Statement on Expert Witness Testimony in Forensic Cases

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Background 

Physicians in various specialty areas of practice are from time to time called upon to be expert witnesses in criminal and civil legal proceedings. This can include testimony in professional malpractice cases. It is important that expert testimony, on behalf of both plaintiff and defendant, be just that: possessing of expertise, and fair and impartial in their testimony. In general, physicians who practice within a given specialty are best prepared to provide fair, impartial, and accurate testimony about cases involving their specialty area. Other medical specialty societies, and the American Medical Association, have established policies to guide physicians in the provision of expert legal testimony. Further, at least one medical specialty society has established provisions for its members to be disciplined if they are found to violate guidelines that stipulate that expert witnesses should testify not only to their own opinions but to the opinions of common practice when there are legitimate differences of opinion within the profession.

RECOMMENDATIONS:

1. Medical specialty societies, including ASAM, should encourage their members to make themselves available, when appropriate, to provide expert witness testimony.

2. ASAM members, when providing such testimony, should be fair and impartial, and should state those areas of medical practice in which they are expert, and those areas which are outside of their area of expertise for legal testimony. ASAM members should not purport to be experts in areas in which they are not expert.

3. Testimony should reflect not only the opinions of the individual, but also honestly describe differences of opinion which may exist within the profession, and those instances where the expert opinion of the witness varies from common practice.

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