Negligence of medical experts

BMJ 2005; 330 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.330.7498.1026-b (Published 28 April 2005) Cite this as: BMJ 2005;330:1026

This article has a correction. Please see:

Quality control of medical experts is being considered

  1. M E Jan Wise, consultant psychiatrist (jan.wise{at}nhs.net)
  1. London NW6 6HX

    EDITOR—Bishop takes exception to the current standards of medical experts.1 Although some cases of evidence presented by those eminent in their field have later been discounted, most experts adhere to the Civil Procedure Rules 1998 code of conduct. A failure to adhere to these duties would result in censure or referral to the General Medical Council's fitness to practise committee.

    Funding for experts is limited, and successful cross examination can be difficult. With this in mind, with the interests of justice for claimants and defendants, the BMA has been in talks with the Civil Justice Council and the Legal Services Commission to tackle the issues of quality, proportionality, and accreditation. Medical practitioners have stated that quality must not be sacrificed on the altar of affordability.

    Concern has been expressed that doctors may not be adequately trained for expert work or that they are not including it in revalidation. The GMC has been clear on the consequences of failing to include all clinical practice in the annual appraisal process. Some colleges concerned about recent criticism of practitioners in their field have contacted the Council for the Registration of Forensic Practitioners to set benchmarks.

    Although medical experts act as interpreters between the medical and legal domains, their duties are different from those of a treating doctor. Colleagues should take care to be aware of this and censure experts for inadequate conduct in the former rather than not being at the forefront of the latter.


    • Competing interests MEJW is chairman of the BMA medicolegal committee



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