Doctors refuse to be expert witnesses

A radical overhaul of the medical expert witness programme has been proposed by Professor Liam Donaldson, England's CMO in light of the lack of expert witnesses.

Expert witness reform
The report, Bearing Good Witness: Proposals for reforming the delivery of medical expert evidence in family law case, was commissioned in 2004, following a series of high profile courts cases that called into question the quality of medical expert witnesses.

Courts are now finding it more and more difficult to source doctors as medical experts, particularly in child abuse cases.

The key proposal is that the NHS establishes a news service where teams of specialist doctors and other professionals in local NHS organisations join together to improve the quality of the service. This will be achieved by mentoring, supervision and peer review, backed up by a new National Knowledge Service to support the medical expert witness programme.

Professor Donaldson said: ‘These proposals are driven by my conviction that it is the duty of medical professionals and health organisations to safeguard children. Ensuring that the family courts have access to the best information when making decisions that will affect the lives of some of our most vulnerable children is closely linked to that duty.’

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