Rules of Conduct
Having come to this point in the book, you should be comfort able with the mechanics of malpractice expert service and understand how to become a valued member of the defense team. If you decide to do expert work, you should be mindful that as with any professional activity, there are ethical and legal “rules” that circumscribe your conduct.
Some professional boards and organizations like the American Dental Association and the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons have issued policy statements, some more detailed than others, regarding the topic of expert service. Without question, problems will arise from the failure to adhere to applicable behavioral guidelines. You may damage the legal defense for which you have been retained. You also may expose yourself to investigation by your specialty organization or, worse yet, disciplinary action by your state’s licensing board.
First and foremost, never accept an assignment where you do not believe you are truly an expert in the matter. Participate in matters only where the specialty at issue is yours or your qualifications and experience enable you to make an informed examination and to opine with genuine authority. Often emphasized in the policy statements referenced above is the principle that practitioners who function as experts must have the requisite experience in and knowledge about the clinical practice area. As noted in previous chapters, there are times when practitioners in different disciplines may legitimately comment on particular diagnoses or treatment. Otherwise, avoid overreaching. Your credibility, if not your integrity, ultimately will be damaged if you venture outside the confines of your practice area and true expertise.