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A suit of armour?

Doctors will be protected from suit for evidence they give in court as medical experts, but not where they have acted as advisers outside court. But is this distinction still appropriate, ask William Featherby QC and Henry Charles

29 June 2010

Experts providing reports or giving evidence in litigation have so far – and perhaps rather lazily – been considered to be ‘immune from suit’. What does this mean and is it correct? Where is the law heading? The issue of immunity from suit has attracted some interest recently, but, in practical terms, is there really a problem? In this article we deal only with the position of medical experts in personal injury and clinical negligence claims. There may be different criteria, for example, for accountants in commercial litigation, or doctors in criminal or disciplinary cases. For our purposes, there are three main ways a medical expert might wreak injury, be it physical or psychiatric, through giving evidence.

Physical and psychiatric loss

First, he may directly injure a claimant; for example, by a grossly excessively rough orthopaedic examination or by insisting on excessive x-rays or by aggravating a psychiatric condition through inappropria...

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