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Professional Conduct Program (Continued from page 16)


guidelines was to “ensure a standard of quality and impartiality in expert testi- mony provided by neurosurgeons on either side of professional liability cases.” 6 Those guidelines established a system in which the driving force behind the committee’s activities is the AANS mem- ber complainant, i.e., a defendant in a medical malpractice action. Under the guidelines, the complainant is responsible for collecting all relevant evidence for pre- sentation to the committee. A copy of the evidence presented by the complain- ant is forwarded to the “charged neurosurgeon” that is given an opportu- nity to respond “in whatever fashion he or she believes appropriate.” The com- mittee then reviews the submissions of both sides. The next step in the process is a hearing before the committee, usu- ally at the annual AANS meeting. At such


6


http://www.aans.org/L ibr a r y / Article.aspx?ArticleId=9916 American Association of Neurological Sur- geons: Bulletin: Spring 2002 Volume11, Is- sue 1): Pelton, Russell M., J.D.: Professing Professional Conduct: AANS Raises the Bar for Expert Testimony (emphasis added).


a hearing, either side can make a presen- tation. Attorneys are allowed to attend on behalf of either side, but they may not engage in “extensive cross examination.” At the conclusion of the presentations, the committee adjourns to consider the evi- dence and, if unprofessional conduct is found, determine the punishment — cen- sure, suspension or expulsion. Before the sanction becomes final, the charged neu- rosurgeon can present his case to the AANS Board of Directors, and then to the general membership. 7


In 1995, the


guidelines were amended to allow the committee to perform a preliminary re- view of complaints presented to determine whether the charged neurosurgeon’s testi- mony evidences “apparent” unprofessional conduct. If so, then a hearing is sched- uled.


If not, then the committee


recommends that the complaint be dis- missed. The complainant may still insist that a full hearing be conducted, but may be assessed costs if the final result is “sub- stantially the same as the committee’s initial conclusion.” 8


At about the same time that the AANS


Professional Conduct Committee was formed, the organization adopted expert witness guidelines, which, after several amendments, currently are as follows:


Rules for Neurosurgical Medical/ Legal Expert Opinion Services


Preamble In 1996, the guide-


lines were amended to allow the Board of Directors to refuse an offer of resignation by any member with pending charges.9


7 Id. 8 Id. 9 Id.


The American legal system often calls for expert medical testimony. Proper functioning of this system requires that when such testimony is needed, it be truly expert, impartial, and available to all litigants. To that end, the following rules have been adopted by the Ameri- can Association of Neurological Surgeons. These rules apply to all AANS members providing expert opin- ion services to attorneys, litigants, or the judiciary in the context of civil or criminal matters and include written expert opinions as well as sworn testi- mony.


Impartial Testimony


* The neurosurgical expert witness shall be an impartial educator for at-


(Continued on page 20)


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