Friday, December 30, 2005

The American Academy of Emergency Medicine has added section to their website called Remarkable Testimony. Here is there summary:
The number of lawsuits filed against emergency physicians is growing. The burden of dealing with these legal actions goes beyond the financial challenges of increased malpractice premiums. Other effects include time lost from work or personal time and the effects on the physician's morale. Many physicians feel that an increasing number of these lawsuits have little or no legitimate basis. These frivolous suits sometimes represent attempts to get a quick settlement from insurance companies eager to hold down costs.

In order to file a malpractice claim, many states require plaintiffs to have an opinion from an expert that malpractice has occurred. A number of these so-called experts are physicians who seem willing to make any statement, no matter how outrageous, in support of a malpractice claim. These physicians can profit handsomely from their willingness give such testimony.

Alarmingly, a number of leaders in our specialty have chosen to supplement their income by giving "expert" testimony that is unfounded in current medical standards and practice.

AAEM has responded to suggestions by several members by creating this web site. It is designed to bring to light testimony by expert witnesses that is remarkable either because of its spurious nature or because it is particularly helpful to the emergency physician defendant. It is hoped that by publicizing such testimony, and the individuals who offer it, emergency physicians may find some measure of relief from the ongoing crisis.
Here is part of the first listed:
Bertha Walker presented to the emergency department at a hospital in Kansas. She was evaluated and admitted. She was ultimately diagnosed as having a stroke and died. Later, the doctors participating in her care were sued for failing to give thrombolytic agents.

...

Dr Tarlow describes tPA as "…that special magic bullet drug…"
Comment: This highly laudatory description of tPA exceeds even the most enthusiastic endorsements of those proponents of the use of tPA in acute stroke.
Hopefully, the scorn associated with publicity may limit some of this garbage that is fed to juries. Additionally, I would like judges to understand the position of the academies, through examples like these, and rule testimony as so far outside the mainstream that allowing the jury to hear it would be prejudicial.