Orthopaedic expert opinion, testimony, and the physician as a defendant

Instr Course Lect. 2011;60:597-605.


Medicolegal issues continue to challenge orthopaedic surgeons. Although health reform legislation has passed Congress, the first phase has not incorporated any significant changes regarding liability reform for practicing orthopaedic surgeons. Medical malpractice, personal injury, and workers' compensation litigation remains an issue for patients and physicians. Although orthopaedic surgeons can be defendants, it is more likely that they will be retained as treating physicians or experts as part of the litigation process. The involvement of a qualified physician as an expert witness is essential to the outcome of any litigation involving medical issues. As triers of the facts, the judge and jury members rely on quality medical testimony. Expert witness testimony can be a time-consuming process. A physician who assumes the role must be able to spend the time necessary to do a good job. A prepared expert witness can have a profound effect on litigation. A poorly prepared physician expert witness can be harmful to a case and risks the loss of prestige, honor among colleagues, and future work. Sanctions may be imposed by professional organizations. Most importantly, a physician working within the legal system must remain honest and tell nothing but the truth.

MeSH terms

  • Documentation
  • Expert Testimony* / standards
  • Humans
  • Informed Consent
  • Malpractice* / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Orthopedics / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Orthopedics / standards
  • United States