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The sins of expertness and a proposal for redemption

BMJ 2000; 320 doi: (Published 06 May 2000) Cite this as: BMJ 2000;320:1283

Rapid Response:

It's the expert testimony that's fails the test

This is all very interesting, but as recent articles and
correspondence in the BMJ over the 'one in 73 million chance of two cot
deaths in the same family' expert testimony showed the furore over this
reportedly unscientific opinion only surfaced after the evidence was given
and any damage that might have lead from it had already been done.

In this respect the Americans do it better, and we should follow
their lead.

They have had the 'Daubert test' since 1993, and this ensures that
expert evidence in a trial is tested for soundness before it is heard by
the jury.

Under Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals Inc., and Fed.R.Ev. 702,
a trial judge must determine whether the proposed scientific testimony is
both reliable and relevant. Scientific knowledge is reliable if it is
grounded in the methods and procedures of science, and is relevant if the
reasoning or methodology properly can be applied to the facts in issue.
This was quoted on 'Google' from a recent relevant judgement - it refers
to Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc., U.S. 113 S. Ct. 2786

Brian Morgan

Competing interests: No competing interests

09 May 2000
Brian Morgan
Frrelance Journalist