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Book review: the effective and efficient expert witness

24 April 2015

Book review: the effective and efficient expert witness

Plenty of medical practitioners, across all fields, possess the knowledge and experience to be called an “expert” in their field. Being an “expert witness” is something different entirely. It takes a medical expert out of their comfort zone in what can often be an unfamiliar, and equally complex, place: the legal world. In “The Effective and Efficient Clinical Negligence Expert Witness” Michael R. Young provides a thorough and comprehensive guide on how clinicians can take the steps to become an expert witness. He starts from the basics, and goes into the context of who can become an expert witness and what it involves; he covers the preparation involved in becoming an expert witness, from finding work and tailoring your CV to developing the appropriate writing style and being aware of the relevant legal regulations. Finally, he brings us through the many different styles of report an expert witness can provide, and how best to approach them.

Commenting on the first edition of Young’s book, the British Dental Journal said: “the aspiring medical or dental expert will not find a better guide and I recommend this book without reservation.” Young has gone even further with this second edition, providing his own real-life anecdotal examples among the text, which gives the book a narrative edge which really keeps the reader engaged as he takes us through the process. Furthermore, the addition of audio files which can be downloaded and listened to, which give the reader a greater insight into the text and offers the opportunity to engage with the topic further.

Many may aspire to become an expert witness, but Young does not take for granted that everyone is completely sure what that entails. Section 1: Context looks, in depth, into what exactly constitutes an expert witness and shows how even the most knowledgeable and experienced of clinician must be aware of the complex, difficult legal processes involved. He writes: “Your role is to interpret and analyse the information and to set this out in writing in a logical order in a report. Whether you like it or not, the solicitor will subconsciously judge your clinical competence by the quality of your written work. Therefore, knowing how to write a first-class report not only enhances your reputation but also may ultimately determine the number of instructions you receive.” Clarity, quality and objectivity are key aspects of being an expert witness that all must bear in mind at all times.

A most impressive aspect of the text is how Young covers all of the need-to-know aspects in a manner that mirrors his title: effective and efficient. Section 2: Preparation discusses potentially unforeseen issues such as tailoring your CV for prospective employers and marketing yourself to crucial aspects like professional indemnity insurance and time management. The accompanying audio files, as well as the anecdotal asides, really come into their own here as a real foil to the text, adding and enhancing your understanding.

Section 3: The Sharp End takes all of the aspects covered so far and how you would employ them in a practical setting. Young covers the numerous types of report required, and delves into each of their intricacies before discussing the best way to approach them, using clear examples. Everything from researching the evidence and covering the case to clinical negligence and GDC reports is covered as well as practical guidance on how to conduct yourself throughout the process, projecting knowledgeability whilst avoiding overconfidence or superciliousness. The book then finishes with start-to-finish samples of reports written for numerous legal reasons.

Perhaps just as beneficial as its guidance, is the reasons why one would want to be, or should be, an expert witness. Young, drawing from his own experience, offers his own: “Expert work helped relieve the tedium of clinical practice. The work was very challenging and is definitely intellectually stimulating. I am sure that in the end it made me a more rounded professional… My conclusion: it is not something doctors or dentists should enter into if they are not prepared to justify their opinions to non-clinicians.” Being an expert witness, then, clearly isn’t for everyone. This book, however, is an invaluable resource for every aspiring expert witness and can be used to help turn a keen interest into a successful career. 

The effective and efficient clinical negligence expert witness is available from Otmoor Publishing. You can order through stephen.bonner@otmoorpublishing.com. Its ISBN is 978 1 910303 01 6 and there are paperback and e-book versions available.

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