Legal and Ethical Issues
Should nurses be called upon as expert witnesses for professions other than nursing?
Legal and Ethical Issues
Over time, the qualification and scope of nurses as competent expert witnesses has remained a heavily contested issue. Whereas some people hold that nurses are competent to offer expert testimony in medical malpractice, others contend that nurses should not testify as experts. Courts have also contested the issue in the past by offering opposing rulings (Ford, 2011). However, considering the current society, which has become more litigious, I believe that nurses should be called as fact and expert witnesses, just like other professions.
An expert witness must have specialized knowledge and experience beyond that of the court to help them in developing proper understanding of evidence. The professional training, skills, and experience make nurse ideal expert witnesses. This is because they can apply the art and science of their practice to the facts that the courts must decide. Since an expert was not present at the time of the incident, he or she must have a basis for her opinion (The Journal of legal nurse, 2008). Using the evidence provided, the expert should be able to form an opinion on the contentious issue, which will in turn be handed over to lawyers.
Even though nurses are not professionally obligated to testify as expert witnesses, they have historically testified as fact witnesses. Courts have also recognized the importance of nurses to testify over time. When testifying, the nurse expert is expected to impart knowledge regarding their practice to the judge and jury, which will affect decision-making and leave a lasting effect in the U.S. jurisprudence (Ford, 2011). The testimony of nurses also affects the public’s perception regarding the profession as an integral part of society and it reflects the professional evolution in general (The Journal of legal nurse, 2008). For example, since nurses in the insurance industry are well informed on the regulations, policies, claims, billing, and auditing, among other issues, they are well equipped to testify for the plaintiff in court. Thus, in line with the changing profession, nurses should be allowed to testify for other professions.
- Ford, J. O. (2011, March 1). Nurses: Their expanding role as expert witnesses. Retrieved from https://marshalldennehey.com/articles/nurses-their-expanding-role-expert-witnesses. The Journal of legal nurse consulting. (2008). doi:10.30710/jlnc