Doctors as Expert witness in Courts

Doctors as Expert witness in Courts

Doctors have a profound impact and role to play in society. Not only  are they indispensable to the medical field, but their information,  knowledge, and expertise serve as an invaluable resource in almost every aspect of life. Especially in the field of law enforcement, their word and testimony carry great weightage and their medical expertise has a notable influence on the case.

When Doctors are called to the witness stand their testimony has credibility and can sway the case either way. This can occur in personal, criminal or even corporate law related cases.

Job Responsibility of a Doctor as an Expert Witness

Contrary to popular belief, the job responsibilities of a doctor often extend beyond the hospitals and clinics. Doctors often  act as a professional advisor in their specific areas of interest in court cases.

Acting as an expert witness in court is one of the major responsibilities of a doctor. Here expert witness does not mean a person who has seen the crime. Being an expert witness refers to the responsibility of shining light on the medical application and prevalence on the ongoing investigation.

When in session, a court often requires the advice and opinion of a medical expert who can help bring clarity to the claims and help bring proper justice. A great responsibility rests on the doctor acting as credible witness to provide the medical framework that is related to the case in which he or she is being consulted or is a witness to.

Doctors are asked to  testify in those cases in which a felony or crime has been committed such as murder, suicide etc. In such cases it is necessary to ascertain the time of death and the probable cause etc. . So, in accordance, the attending doctor is responsible for explaining to the judge and juries  the reasons for cause of death or the means by which death has occurred etc.

Being a medical professional, the doctor is also further expected to breakdown, analyze, and present the effect that would take place if the drug in question were to be administered improperly, in cases where death occurred due to poisoning.

The Doctors have an obligation to provide correct and accurate information based on their knowledge and expertise to ensure that justice is served.

Skills and training to be possessed by Doctor acting as an Expert Witness

A doctor who has been called upon by a jury  to give evidence must have certain skill sets and the requisite training. This is absolutely essential for a doctor who may be summoned to court to give testimony.

Some of these skills and training include:

  • Professional adequacy: For a doctor to be an expert witness, he or she must be a qualified individual with certified professional adequacy. The doctor must have prior medical experience as an active practitioner of medicine.
  • Knowledge of one’s duty to the law: Simply being a doctor in a representative case is not enough. The doctor who is the expert witness of the ongoing case should have proper knowledge of the proceedings and the fundamental inner workings of due process in court.
  • Medicinal framework: Another skill set which is imperative to possess as an expert witness is the understanding of the medicinal framework that pertains to the case at hand. It is important to filter out the unnecessary information and only present the ones that pertain to the matter at hand.
  • In-depth analysis: Finally, it is important to make sure that the doctor who is acting as the expert witness; should present a detailed and well- formatted dialogue encompassing the entirety of the medical application that is in direct association with the case that is under due process.
  • Statement and testimony: All doctors, as an expert witness must present their information as testimony or statement to the court of law for it to be properly marked, documented and preserved for future reference and ratification. Doctors who have been consulted in the matter must be responsible for making a well-documented testimony of their findings and reasons for the application of the imparted knowledge.

Medical professionals as expert witnesses

Since the judges and juries are not well versed in the medical field, they rely on medical experts to prepare statements that lay out the foundation of the medical ambiguity that may have presided over the case.

On many such occasions, the court has taken the assistance and help of such medical professionals and have had them act as expert witnesses in order to bring clarity to the chain of evidence and the understanding of the accused criminal’s motives and execution.

Within the meaning of Section 45 of the Evidence Act, medical practitioners like:

  • Dr Puneet Bedi – a milestone in the field of MBBS and MD in Obstetrics and gynaecology, is a renounced allopath with over 34 years’ worth of medical experience. He has in several occasions assisted the court of India in matters of martial disposition.
  • Dr Sudha Salhan has been actively participating in certain court cases as an expert witness to aid the resolution of the matter, and pass proper judgement by presenting her experience in multiple fields including gynaecology and obstetrics while being an on-call medicine practitioner in the Hindu Rao Hospital in Delhi.

Conclusion

The aid and advice of a doctor and their input to an open case as an expert witness is an indispensable asset to the law. Without the aid of these experts and their knowledge on ongoing court trails, the chain of evidence that eventually leads the court to the guilty party cannot be formed. This is why Section 45 of the Evidence Act stipulates the acceptance and compulsory inclusion of a doctor in pertaining cases as an expert witness.

No matter what kind of court trials occur ; be it criminal, personal law or corporate, the role of a doctor as an expert witness in the process of law is  an indispensable asset.

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