Tuesday, 5 December 2017

Medico Legal Case Commentary: Interface Between Clinical Opinion and Legal Case Reporting in Personal Injury Litigation


The history of clinical and medico-legal report case preparation is summarised. The development of an innovative medico-legal commentary is described as a method of exploring the interface between clinical opinions and legal case reports in the field of UK civil and criminal litigation. A pilot study to develop the process of documenting psychologically-relevant commentaries is illustrated with a subsequent plan for its development outlined.

The science of medicine and its related professions has an interesting relationship with the laws of evidence. Medical experts attempt to show the relevance of their clinical experience to litigation and occasionally the court room, drawing on their work in assessment and treatment within a clinical setting. Clinically, concepts of ‘proof’ and ‘causation’ exist but not to the same level of evidential stringency as they do in litigation. Effective treatment is predominantly linked to more accurate current symptoms assessment than to background history taking, although of course the latter is also important a motivated ‘patient’ with current symptoms can utilise therapeutic intervention to good effect despite its chronicity. However, as the clinician moves into the medical-legal context, the issues of causation, attribution and reliability come much more into sharp focus and, here, they have had much to learn from the legal colleagues. Whereas clinicians thrive on multiplicity of disease theories and treatments, lawyers typically aim for uniformity and avoidance of disparity, regarding numerous medical viewpoints as contradictory and confusing.

Clinicians are experienced in preparing clinical reports in order to communicate individual patient care findings to other clinicians, their patients and other appropriate organisations. These reports typically include symptom description, development and causation, diagnosis, course and duration, and prognosis and treatment. Guidelines for psychological clinical case reports, in particular, are available in the literature. Clinicians also communicate their clinical findings to other clinicians via case reports published in professional journals. Guidelines are frequently available on how to prepare these reports. When working in a medico-legal context either in civil or criminal proceedings, clinicians acting as ‘expert witnesses’ produce medico-legal reports attesting to the extent of physical or psychological injuries which may or may not have caused by a negligent act of another or others (e.g. road accident, work accident, medical accident). In the purely clinical report, emphasis is placed more on diagnosis and treatment. In the medico-legal report, requiring a more independent and impartial stance, greater emphasis may well be placed on causation and attribution, in addition to diagnosis, treatment and prognosis.  

No comments:

Post a Comment