Effective courtroom testimony

Psychiatr Q. 1992 Winter;63(4):303-17. doi: 10.1007/BF01066761.


Participating in a medical/legal situation is quite different from the ordinary office or hospital experience and requires the expert to see that all of the new parameters are clarified. A thorough and complete evaluation with a review of all the pertinent records and interviews with ancillary individuals is necessary, as is good preparation by way of a pre-trial conference with the attorney. Review of all notes and records prior to deposition or testimony can put the expert at ease. Once under oath, the expert is expected to tell the truth and not advocate for the retaining party. On the other hand, the expert must advocate for his opinion. When the answer is not known, or when one is proven wrong because new data is presented, then the expert must readily admit this. The expert should take the necessary time, pausing, listening to the question, reflecting upon the answer, giving time to the attorney to object. This trip through the vagaries of the legal system should assist psychiatrists in feeling more at ease when participating in forensic matters.

MeSH terms

  • Expert Testimony / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Forensic Psychiatry*
  • Humans
  • Mental Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Mental Disorders / psychology
  • Physician's Role*