Should There Be a Code of Ethics for Expert Witnesses?

West Virginia’s “Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse” plans to ask the legislature to create a “code of ethics” to prevent “misleading expert witness testimony.” As reported in the West Virginia Register-Herald, a survey about expert witnesses was conducted by the the Center for Survey Research at the University of Virginia:

In its study, the center learned most doctors in West Virginia doubt the “expert” testimony if it is given beyond a physician’s specialty or is motivated by money. Sixty-four percent of doctors surveyed rated the overall quality of medical expert witnesses as “poor” or “only fair.” Only 27 percent felt it was “good.” And a mere 9 percent considered it “very good” or “excellent.” The survey found 72 percent had seen or heard testimony by a medical expert they felt was either in error or based on questionable science. All but 5 percent agreed that testimony as supportive diagnoses provided for a fee was tainted. A code of ethics was supported by 96 percent of the physicians interviewed in the University of Virginia research.

It should be noted that most in the survey would likely be facing a medical malpractice expert witness as opposed to working as an expert witness themselves. Also, most of the concerns of the doctors surveyed are addressed by the Daubert reliability test.