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10 Things: Observations from Court

Reblogged from Forensic Healthcare Online

{This post originally appeared on Forensic Healthcare Online, which I also authored, and was reprinted with my permission. See the original post.}

I spent a lot of time in trial in 2013. Probably more than any other year, in fact. In doing so, there are some issues I have noticed that come up repeatedly. I figured I’d share some of those today, particularly because it’s one of those things I’m asked to discuss pretty frequently when talking with medical folks about testimony. So for your reading pleasure, a new 10 Things list: Observations from Court:


  1. Cataloging injuries is not the same as performing a medical-forensic exam.
  2. If you are not currently seeing patients then you must be able to demonstrate how else you remain current in practice in order to be credible as an expert witness.
  3. Just because the form you use doesn’t have a place for it doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be asked/written down.
  4. You should be able to provide a clinical rationale for every question you ask and every step you take in examining the patient.
  5. Just because you heard it at a conference doesn’t mean it’s true.
  6. Just because you heard it from someone with a name more famous than yours doesn’t mean it’s true.
  7. Getting snippy with counsel on cross is usually a losing proposition. Nothing positive can ever come from it, but plenty of negative can. {Note from my prosecutor spouse: Remember they’ve had days to build rapport with the jury; you’ve had minutes. Also, counsel can characterize you any way they choose during closing arguments and there’s nothing you can do to rebut it. So be professional.}
  8. Doing an exam the exact same way every single time is not something to which you should aspire. A truly patient-centered process makes this impossible.
  9. Making assumptions about a fellow clinician based on education alone is a mistake, every single time. This is especially true if said clinician is a witness for opposing counsel.     
  10. If you bend the science to fit the needs of the side that has hired you, that choice will ultimately come back to haunt you.

By the way–these make total sense in my brain, but may require greater explanation for some. Let me know if there are any you’d like to see me expound upon in future posts.


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