Cardiology Expert Witness – What is Recommended?

Cardiology Expert Witnesses are often called to testify.  The American College of Cardiology Foundation (ACCF), wrote a statement on the subject of Expert Witnesses some years ago.  In it, they state that a Cardiovascular Expert Witness has the obligation and duty as a doctor, as a member of society, and as a member of the cardiology profession, to act as an expert witness in litigation where cases involve her or his experience, training, or knowledge.  The ACFF believes that such expert witness testimony is required to see that the correct result occurs for all parties.

The ACCF acknowledges while some doctors do cause injury to patience as a result of malpractice, that is not always the case.  Our society, and that of the cardiology profession, is best served when unbiased expert witness, and sound scientific testimony is available to all parties in medical malpractice litigation.  The ACCF suggest that medical schools offer classes to instruct cardiologists on the skills and qualifications needed for a doctor to testify as an expert witness.

Indeed, the American Medical Association supports the use of cardiologists as expert witnesses.  Expert testimony is effectively part of the practice of medicine.  The expert should not be an advocate.  They should give an honest and impartial opinion, not based on who is paying them.  One of the best statements by a doctor working on a case was as follows: “I don’t work for the plaintiff or the defendant.  I work for the patient. Did they receive the proper care?  That is the essential question.”

It is necessary for the cardiology expert witness to should review all of the relevant medical records and documents related to the issues in the case, and understand the standard of care at the time the incident occurred.   The expert witness has the obligation to give honest answers within the limits of the doctor’s expertise.  Of course, the cardiologist must be able to back their position.   Excellent expert witness testimony is fair, and if there is uncertainty, such uncertainty should be brought forth.

The American College of Physicians established guidelines for Cardiology Expert Witnesses which included the concepts that the doctors should police themselves, and that poor physicians should be responsible for their wrong-doing, and good cardiologists who are wrongly accused of malpractice should be defended.

A Cardiology Expert Witness testifying on the standard of care should be in the same field as the doctor involved in the case.  For example, there may be a different standard for an internal medicine expert witness than a cardiologist.  Similar, while a cardiologist might be able to opine in a case generally involving cardiovascular disease, if the case involves technical questions involving specific procedures, it would be best to have a doctor who specializes in that area.

The ACCF cautions against professional expert witnesses.  They argue that some cardiologists who always testify may not be objective.  It is often a causal effect that one expert may consistently testify because other cardiologists some doctors do not want to testify they are uneasy, or not knowledgeable about the legal system; that they do not trust attorneys; and the fear of backlash from other cardiologists.

Some recommendation as criteria for Cardiology Expert Witness include: having an updated license to practice cardiology medicine. Specifically, as a Cardiovascular Medicine Expert Witness, it is recommended that the Expert Witness have a board certification from the American Board of Osteopathic Internal Medicine or by the American Board of Internal Medicine.  This board certification should be in the field cardiovascular disease or in cardiovascular surgery or pediatric cardiology.  The expert must have knowledge and be qualified in the specific area in which they are testifying, and be able to testify on the clinical practice standards as they relate to the issues.  Ideally, but required, is the expert is actively practicing his or her specialty.  It is recommended that compensation for the Cardiology Expert Witness be reasonable and relate to the time and the resources used, and that compensation should never be based on a contingency.  Having your case background, and if available, prior transcripts is ideal.