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Doctors Distrust Many Medical Experts

Are medical experts promoting junk science through their courtroom testimony? They are in Illinois, says a survey released yesterday by Illinois Lawsuit Abuse Watch (I-LAW), a group advocating for a bill (HB 1896) that would set tougher standards in Illinois for admissibility of expert testimony. As reported yesterday in the Madison County Record, the survey of 176 Illinois doctors showed that almost two-thirds "had personally seen or heard statements by a medical expert witness in a courtroom that they believe to be inaccurate or based on questionable science."

Should we accept this survey at face value? Obviously, I-LAW has an agenda -- not just promoting this bill but "tort reform" in general. And, obviously, the survey's respondents, doctors, are not generally known for their appreciation of the tort system. On the other hand, the survey was conducted by the Center for Survey Research at the University of Virginia, an independent academic research facility. So we can assume, at least, that it fairly well reflects the opinions of Illinois doctors.

Among the survey's other findings, as reported by The Record:

  • Almost all Illinois physicians believe there is a problem with medical experts who provide testimony on issues beyond their specialty (97%) and on cases with which they have little or no experience.
  • Illinois physicians are almost twice as likely to believe lawyers who argue a case place "a lot" of importance on a physician's willingness to adapt medical findings to support the lawyer's case (66%) compared to the physician's qualifications within a particular medical specialty.
  • Nearly all physicians surveyed (97%) believe it is unethical for medical experts to receive payment contingent upon the outcome of their testimony.

Among other things, the Illinois bill would prohibit an expert from receiving compensation contingent on the outcome of a case and would require that an expert "only offer expert testimony with respect to a particular field in which the expert is qualified."

Posted by Robert J. Ambrogi on March 20, 2007 at 05:21 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

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