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Family Law

The leading authority on all aspects of family law

02 JAN 2007

Chief Medical Officer's Report on Medical Expert Witnesses

Georgina Fletcher-Cooke on behalf of the Department of Health. The Chief Medical Officer published a report in October 2006, with proposals for changing the way medical expert evidence is provided in childcare cases, but the report will not only affect doctors; the changes will also impact on solicitors and barristers. Sir Liam Donaldson's report, Bearing Good Witness: Proposals for Reforming the Delivery of Medical Expert Evidence in Family Law Cases, suggests radical changes in the way experts are identified and in the way they work. He proposes that teams of doctors, which could be multi-specialty, be established in some NHS hospitals. The work of producing a report for the court and, if necessary, of appearing to give evidence, would be shared out among the team members.

Sir Liam argues that sharing the work among members of a team will improve the supply of expert witnesses, because those who are new to the team will be provided with the opportunity to learn the skills under the supervision of their more senior colleagues. Training would also be focused on the team, and the doctors would have the support of their colleagues and peers, and time to do the work within their normal working day. See January [2007] Fam Law for the full article.

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