AAEM Position Statement on Ethical Expert Conduct and Testimony

The American Academy of Emergency Medicine believes the following principles to be essential to the ethical conduct of an expert offering opinions or testimony in medical legal matters. Violation of these principles constitutes a violation of the Academy’s Ethics policy and may be subject to sanctions as described there-in.

Expert Testimony as Medical Practice

Provision of opinions, reports, reviews or testimony as a medical expert is part of medical practice. As such, an expert witness providing such services is subject to all applicable rules, regulations and standards as well as the oversight and authority of the appropriate state licensing body.

Qualifications of Expert

An expert witness offering testimony related to emergency medical care must be

  1. board certified by The American Board of Emergency Medicine or the American Board of Osteopathic Emergency Medicine; and
  2. actively engaged in the provision of emergent medical care to patients.

Scope of Testimony

An expert witness offering testimony should:

  1. offer testimony only about care that falls within the expert’s area of expertise and training;
  2. conduct a thorough review of relevant material including, but not limited to, medical records, test results, and witness statements or depositions prior to offering testimony or opinions;
  3. review and be prepared to describe medical literature relevant to the care provided, including that literature provided by other witnesses when possible;
  4. offer complete testimony (whenever necessary to avoid incomplete or inaccurate testimony, the expert must offer appropriate qualifications or clarifications); and
  5. explicitly state whenever an opinion offered is not conclusive, as well as explain the reason(s) why it is not.

Duty to the Court

At all times, an expert witness offering testimony must

  1. impartially assist the Court and its officers on relevant matters within the expert’s area of expertise;
  2. not advocate for the party who engages him or her as an expert witness;

Duty to Confer

At the direction of the court, an expert witness will confer with other witnesses to

  1. attempt to reach agreement on matters within the field of expertise of the expert witnesses;
  2. prepare and sign a joint witness statement describing matters of agreement and disagreement among the witnesses, along with the reasons for disagreement.

In following the court’s direction, the expert must exercise independent and professional judgment and must not act on the instructions or directions of any person to withhold or avoid agreement.

Professional Reimbursement

An expert witness, being engaged in the practice of medicine, shall be entitled to fair reimbursement for all work performed. In establishing a fee structure, the expert witness shall refuse payment based on case outcome.

Published: 10/24/05