Should physicians be forced to testify as expert witnesses?

Article

That's the question before the Wisconsin Supreme Court. At issue is whether an appellate court is wrong to compel a gynecologist to testify as an expert witness in a medical malpractice case against a patient's former obstetrician-gynecologist.

The appellate court ruled that gynecologist Charles Koh, MD, was required to testify in the case because the plaintiff, Sinora Glenn, had missed a deadline for naming an expert witness and without Koh's testimony, the case could be dismissed.

Those supporting the appellate decision argue that Koh should be forced to testify because he has unique insight into the case as the physician who treated Glenn after the defendant Michael Plante, MD, performed a right oophorectomy and a hysterectomy. Court records indicate that Koh, who is reluctant to testify, believes that aspects of Plante's treatment were inappropriate, reported American Medical News (2/2/04).

Looking at the specifics of the case, those opposing the appellate decision note that courts should not allow missed deadlines to force physicians into a position of having to testify against their will. Looking at the case more broadly, some say that upholding the appellate decision could put the freedom of choice for Wisconsin physicians in jeopardy.

"Compelling testimony against an expert's wishes, in essence, deprives that expert of control over his or her professional pursuits," the American Medical Association and the Wisconsin Medical Society wrote in a friend-of-the-court brief. "In no other part of professional life are professionals generally required to forgo their freedom of choice."

The state Supreme Court is expected to rule on the case this year.

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