HealthLawProf Blog

Editor: Katharine Van Tassel
Akron Univ. School of Law

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Monday, December 20, 2004

Tort Reform AMA's Top Priority

The American Medical Association (AMA) remains strongly committed to tort reform and sees such reform as its number one priority.  At the AMA's interim meeting in December, the AMA emphasized its ongoing support for and effort to pass federal tort reform that includes a $250,000 cap on noneconomic damages in medical liability cases. The reform has passed the House but failed to pass the Senate in this session.

Another hot topic was reining in medical expert witnesses.  Doctors attending the meeting suggested that toughened medical expert witness standards were necessary and began to set strict standards as to which colleagues they believe should be allowed to testify in court.  They also stated that they wanted state courts to adopt expert witness policies similar to those followed at the federal level, including full and timely disclosure of expert witnesses' opinions, reports, qualifications, compensation and prior cases in which they've testified.

As the AMA News reports, the physicians set forth some minimum standards for expert witnesses, including the following: 

  • Comparable education, training and occupational experience in the same field as the defendant doctor or specialty expertise in the disease or the process performed in the case.
  • Active educational practice or teaching experience in the same field as the defendant physician.
  • Current experience within five years of the action that initiated the lawsuit.
  • Certification by a board that the American Board of Medical Specialties or the American Osteopathic Assn. recognizes or by a board with equivalent standards.

There was a split on the necessity of the expert witness to be board certified.  Some doctors expressed the view that board certification was important to them but others said that board certification doesn't guarantee "honest testimony." 

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