Article Text

The paediatrician as an expert witness
  1. SLJ Johnson1,2
  1. 1Discipline of Paediatrics and Child Health, Faculty of Medicine, University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia
  2. 2Child Development Paediatrics, Specialist Medical Centre, Sydney, Australia


Paediatricians can be called upon to give evidence in court as expert witnesses and might be engaged by either the defence or plaintiff lawyers for opinion evidence about the medical matters of a case. There is no doubt that paediatricians are advocates for the health and well-being of children, and have the capacity to influence government and agencies that provide for the needs of children. However, the paediatrician who is an expert witness to the court is there to assist the court by providing evidence related to the case and is not in court to act as an advocate for the child. The presentation will discuss this challenge for paediatricians in this role. It will focus on the paediatric expert's responsibilities, the types of medico-legal assessments performed for court and the importance of accuracy and research in report writing. It will also address the paediatrician's role within the court, the courtroom process, the presentation of medical findings to the court and the need to remain objective while in the witness box. Legal issues like factual and opinion evidence; rules of evidence; admissibility of evidence; evidence in chief and cross-examination will be discussed. Paediatricians rarely have legal training or legal exposure in their medical careers and many find the prospect of attending court daunting. This presentation aims to share knowledge about the process of being a ‘paediatric expert witness’ by a paediatrician who has had such training, so as to empower paediatricians with knowledge should they find themselves in court as expert witnesses, either by choice or by a court directive.

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