The treating physician as expert witness: Ethical and pragmatic considerations

Ben A Rich

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Objective. The objective of this analysis is to apprise pain physicians of the ethical concerns and practical considerations that arise when a treating physician is called upon to testify as an expert witness in a legal proceeding involving his or her own patient. The provision of expert testimony in medico-legal proceedings has come under heightened scrutiny in recent years. When a physician testifies as an expert witness, such testimony is considered to be the practice of medicine, and hence subject to the same ethical and professional obligations as patient care. Increasingly, medical professional organizations have promulgated guidelines for such activities, and even implemented oversight mechanisms to review complaints concerning expert testimony by their members. Additional issues are raised when the expert witness is also the treating physician for the patient who is a party to the legal proceeding in which the expert testimony is offered. Conclusions. While it is not categorically unethical or inadvisable for a physician to testify as an expert witness in a medico-legal proceeding involving his or her own patient, such activity raises special issues and concerns. Prospective expert witnesses in such situations should be cognizant of these issues and insure that they have been adequately addressed before and during the testimony.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)460-463
Number of pages4
JournalPain Medicine
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 2006


  • Conflict of interest
  • Ethics
  • Expert witness
  • Forensic
  • Informed consent

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology


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