Intended for healthcare professionals


New rules for expert witnesses

BMJ 1999; 318 doi: (Published 22 May 1999) Cite this as: BMJ 1999;318:1365

The last shots of the medicolegal hired gun

  1. Mark Friston, Barrister
  1. 6 Pump Court, Temple, London EC4Y 7AR

    Those clinicians who provide reports for use in the civil courts of England and Wales will find their practice changing over the next few months. There are fresh opportunities for those new to medicolegal work to take on stimulating (and well paid) work, but clinicians with established practices may well lose out.

    The civil justice system in England and Wales has just undergone an upheaval. The changes began in 1994 when Lord Woolf was appointed to review the rules and procedures of the civil courts in England and Wales. The aims of the review were (principally) to improve access to justice and to reduce the costs of litigation. Lord Woolf was particularly troubled by the escalating cost of expert witnesses and the delay caused by the need to engage experts.1 Although Lord Woolf did not target clinical experts specifically, he complained in his final report that experts had become partisan advocates rather than neutral givers of opinions.2

    The Woolf reports have crystallised into a new set of procedural rules …

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