Anesthesia & Analgesia: June 2015 Vol 120 Issue 6 p 1369-1374
Authors: Radvansky, Brian M. BA et al
BACKGROUND: Expert witnesses serve a crucial role in the medicolegal system, interpreting evidence so that it can be understood by jurors. Guidelines have been established by both the legal community and professional medical societies detailing the expectations of expert witnesses. The primary objective of this analysis was to evaluate the expertise of anesthesiologists testifying as expert witnesses in malpractice litigation.
METHODS: The WestlawNext legal database was searched for cases over the last 5 years in which anesthesiologists served as expert witnesses. Internet searches were used to identify how long each witness had been in practice. Departmental websites, the Scopus database, and state medical licensing boards were used to measure scholarly impact (via the h-index) and determine whether the witness was a full-time faculty member in academia.
RESULTS: Anesthesiologists testifying in 295 cases since 2008 averaged over 30 years of experience per person (mean ± SEM, defense, 33.4 ± 0.7, plaintiff, 33.1 ± 0.6, P = 0.76). Individual scholarly impact, as measured by h-index, was found to be lower among plaintiff experts (mean ± SEM, 4.8 ± 0.5) than their defendant counterparts (mean ± SEM, 8.1 ± 0.8;P = 0.02). A greater proportion of defense witnesses were involved in academic practice (65.7% vs 54.8%, P = 0.04).
CONCLUSIONS: Anesthesiologists testifying for both sides are very experienced. Defense expert witnesses are more likely to have a higher scholarly impact and to practice in an academic setting. This indicates that defense expert witnesses may have greater expertise than plaintiff expert witnesses.