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Do doctors make good witnesses in medical malpractice cases?

Since an apology made by a doctor cannot be used against him or her in court here in Oregon, telling the truth could help a family deal with the situation. However, one retired doctor says that many people never get the truth -- and that extends to the doctors who testify on behalf of the doctor who is being sued for medical malpractice. He came forward recently to say that he once lied in court on behalf of a colleague because he was expected to do so.

The former doctor claims that the testimony of any physician on behalf of a colleague should be considered suspect. Like many other professions, doctors tend to stick together and not "rat" on each other. He claims that attorneys are considered to be the enemy, and any action that could thwart their efforts to sue a colleague are acceptable. He says that he never made a conscious decision to lie, but he did vow to support his colleague.

The South Dakota man says that he shared his transgression in order to alert others to the fact that doctors testifying on behalf of doctors should not be trusted. He now works with attorneys who handle medical malpractice cases for plaintiffs who have suffered injuries -- or families who have lost loved ones -- at the hands of doctors. Even so, he does not believe that the traditional adversarial setting of a courtroom is the best place to help injured patients or surviving family members.

This former doctor's warnings could help bring to light an issue that needs to be addressed in the medical field. As for the utility of taking medical malpractice claims to trial, whether a physician is a good doctor does not preclude him or her from being capable of making a mistake. If the evidence presented to an Oregon civil court shows that an error was made, that is what should matter -- not necessarily what colleagues might say about a doctor's overall competency.

Source:, "You can't always rely on physician testimony in malpractice cases, says doc who admits he lied", Debra Cassens Weiss, Sept. 28, 2016

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