How the Medical Laboratory Expert Witness Can Supercharge Medical Malpractice Cases

Expert Institute Expert

Written by
— Updated on July 6, 2017

How the Medical Laboratory Expert Witness Can Supercharge Medical Malpractice Cases

Medical Laboratory Expert WitnessIntroduction & Philosophy

All of the legal cases for which I have served as an expert witness involved either medical malpractice/negligence issues involving infectious diseases, or discrimination in the workplace against individuals testing positive for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).  Several of these cases have involved needle-stick injuries involving possible HIV exposure.  Another case dealt with an individual who was incorrectly diagnosed with tuberculosis and erroneously treated for it.  Another case involved a woman who developed fulminant sepsis following a cesarean section; despite significant lab data in support of this diagnosis, her condition went unreported and she consequently died.

Serving as an expert witness is a challenging task, and it is important to understand what motivates a person to undertake it.  Personally, I am motivated to join any effort that brings equity to an individual (or their family) who has sustained harm due to negligence, lack of professional diligence, or discrimination based on an erroneously diagnosed infectious disease status (such as HIV).  I have engaged in relatively few of these cases, but the feeling of having helped “right a wrong” is deeply satisfying.

I will rarely testify as an expert witness unless I fully believe the plaintiff has a legitimate complaint.  I have declined several cases in which I felt that the grounds for complaint were either frivolous or, at best, insubstantial.  It is important to maintain integrity as an expert witness by only engaging in cases in which one has a moral/ethical commitment; in other words, an inner compass that swings “true north.”

Below I will outline what I believe to be the most effective means of working with attorneys in the area of medical/scientific disciplines.  In particular, these guidelines and resources can help bridge the technological gap between plaintiffs and attorneys, and increase the chances of a positive legal outcome.  Furthermore, the following may serve as encouragement to other expert witnesses.

Do Your Research

There’s a saying in the South – “this dog will hunt.”  A genuine passion for research on the internet can be one’s greatest virtue.  Immerse yourself in medical literature, and know your sources.  Due to their impact, the New England Journal of Medicine, Nature, The Lancet, British Medical Journal, Annals of Internal Medicine, and the Journal of the American Medical Association are the top medical journals in the world.  Whether you are serving as a medical expert witness, research, plaintiff or defense, you should be versed in these publications.  Engage with and reference them for information.  Medical literature is where you will find the most unimpeachable information to support your case.

Do You Google?

You are limited only by your imagination when it comes to medical/scientific literature online.  There’s a rich harvest of information which you can use to support your case: all you have to do is to put in the right words, and your answer is at your feet.   If you type in the right search words, you can be an expert in 15 minutes.   Medical literature is critical to your case.

Specialty Medical Sites

The most specific information on medical conditions depends on the specialty.  For example: I’m particularly interested in infectious diseases, so I rely heavily upon the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDCP), ProMed, the Journal of Infectious Diseases and the Journal of Clinical Infectious Diseases.  For information on heart conditions, reference (via google or otherwise) the American Heart Institute; the same goes for other specialty medical sites.  The Mayo Clinic is very good for general medical conditions.

YouTube

YouTube is an incredible resource when it comes to conveying complex or highly technical evidence to a lay jury.  For example, I once had to explain sepsis (bacterial infection of the blood stream) and found precisely what I needed on YouTube.  Even the cartoon-like films are worth their weight in gold.  These visual resources have the power to convey the impact of poisonous gram negative bacteria growing in a human being’s blood, for example, in a manner words cannot.  YouTube has excellent visual depictions of kidney failure, heart attacks, and strokes, as well as more specialized conditions.

Play The Devil’s Advocate

Sometimes the most valuable exercise is to imagine yourself on the opposite side of the case.   Like in chess, place yourself in the position of the defendant (or plaintiff) and assess the situation from that side of the board.  It’s strategically valuable to free one’s mind, go to a quiet place, and think from the other side.

While hopeful, it is not reasonable to expect that medical professionals will always police themselves.  Mistakes are always made.  To ensure safety and justice, there need to be watchdogs that ensure that the patient is as safe as possible at all times.  When this isn’t the case, medical professionals can serve as a positive balance in the medical world.

Expert Witness Bio E-005996

E-005996This highly qualified expert has been a microbiologist for more than 40 years. She holds a PhD in Microbiology with minors in Biochemistry and Preventative Medicine. She is certified as a Specialist Microbiologist with the American Society for Clinical Pathology. This expert has published extensively in the field of Microbiology and has numerous ongoing grant-funded research projects. She currently teaches all of the Infectious Disease and Human Genetics/ Immunology courses for the PA program at a major university.

Location: Southeast
BS, University of Mississippi
PhD, Microbiology, University of Mississippi Medical Center
Certified: Medical Laboratory Professional, IRB, HIPPA, FERPA, Blood Borne Pathogen
Member, American Society for Microbiology
Member, American Society for Clinical Laboratory Sciences
Member, Infectious Diseases Society of America
Publications: 40+ abstracts, book chapters, peer-reviewed publications
Former, Assistant Professor, Pediatrics, University of Tennessee Center for the Health Sciences and Director of Virology
Former, Director, Microbiology and Immunology Laboratories, LeBonheur Children’s Medical Center
Former, Director, Immunology/Serology Laboratories, LeBonheur Children’s Medical Center
Current, Professor, Clinical Laboratory Sciences, a major medical university

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