Q4 2020

6 GHP / Q4 2020 , “The Health Professional in Court”: 10 Principles for Practice Increasingly, senior professionals from all branches of the healthcare industry are finding themselves involved in the Court system, either on an involuntary basis, as a witness to fact or defendant, or on a voluntary basis as an expert witness. Gone is the paternalism of “the professional knows best” and there has been more and more scrutiny by the public of professional actions and attitudes. Leaving aside the criminal law, which is an entirely different situation, civil legal cases are predicated on the fact that within every profession, or branch of profession, there exists a range of opinions as to what constitutes good practice. Defendants and expert witnesses are expected to provide opinions, witnesses to fact are not. It is important to understand that, while judges are highly trained and experienced in the interpretation of the law, they and the barristers or trial lawyers who argue cases are nevertheless lay people when it comes to the health care professions. They are not medical experts and therefore require help in understanding the medical evidence before them. For the health professional, whether as defendant or expert witness, the duty is to assist the Court in their decision- making whilst at the same time maintaining and promoting their own professional integrity and reputation. Most healthcare professionals rarely appear in Court. From personal experience as a teacher and trainer to those who do become involved, there are recurrent themes which arise and so the following 10 principles have been developed to help guide professionals through the Court process. Record Keeping Keep detailed contemporaneous records. Any major findings or decisions, whether it be from working with a patient, a client or undertaking a project, should be on record as one never knows when such events may become the object of scrutiny. There is an old saying, “if it is not written down, it did not happen” and oral evidence is likely to be regarded as weak and suspect unless there is written evidence to back it up. A little extra time spent in ensuring accurate, contemporaneous recording may save considerable time, effort and indeed stress at a later stage when trying to convince a Court that decision making was sound. Remember, all written communications are discoverable and may be used in Court proceedings. Therefore, it is important not to make any gratuitous comments within the written record. When acting as an expert witness, always look for original, contemporaneous documentation to back up later oral recall of events. Stick to the facts as presented and derive opinions from them. Producing a report Reports should be timely, factually based and the opinions well- reasoned, taking full account of appropriate legal tests. For this month’s feature article, we interviewed someone who is acknowledged as one of the world’s top surgical coaches and an international authority inmedico-legal issues. Mr Rodney Peyton, OBEMD is a Trauma Surgeonwho has the unique distinction of holding Fellowships in all four Royal Colleges of Surgeons in the UK and Ireland as well as being a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians in London. He holds amaster’s degree inmedical education fromCardiff University and also graduated in law from the College of Law in London. In his career spanning 40 years, he has been engaged in over 70,000 personal injury cases as well as being asked to advise onmore than 3000 cases involvingmedical malpractice. He therefore has a wealth of experience in preparing cases for and giving expert testimony in Court and has been involved in the training of doctors and lawyers in dealing withmedicolegal cases, individually on a face-to-face basis, and also as a trainer and keynote speaker. In this article he will cover his 10 top strategies to help health professionals deal with the Court process. He is also a well-known author and international keynote speaker. For his availability to speak at your corporate events, contact himat [email protected] Jul20207

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