The American Academy of Pediatrics joins with other medical organizations in emphasizing the obligation of objectivity when its members respond to requests to serve as expert witnesses in the judicial system. Regardless of the source of the request, such testimony ought to embody the relevant facts and the expert's knowledge, experience, and best judgment regarding the case. At the same time, the Academy reiterates that it cannot condone participation of its members in legal actions in which their testimony will impugn some performances that clearly fall within the accepted standards of practice or, conversely, will endorse some obviously deficient practices.
The role of an expert witness in a medical liability case is to testify to the standards of care in a given case, and to explain how the defendant did or did not conform to those standards. An expert witness may be asked to testify as to whether a deviation from the standard of care caused the injury. Expert witnesses are also called upon to help an attorney determine if a case has merit, and in several states attorneys are required by law to consult an expert before a suit is filed. Because experts are relied upon to help courts and juries understand the "standards of practice" as applicable to a given case, care must be exercised that such "expert testimony" does not narrowly reflect the experts' views about applicable standards to the exclusion of other acceptable and perhaps more realistic choices. The standards of care for generalists may not necessarily be the standards of care for subspecialists.
- Copyright © 1994 by the American Academy of Pediatrics