Testify Against a Colleague? Kiss Your Friendship Goodbye

Mark Crane


September 26, 2016

In This Article

An Unpleasant Responsibility

Most physicians would rather have a root canal without painkiller than testify against a colleague or partner at a malpractice trial or before a peer review committee.

There are times, however, when testifying can't—or shouldn't—be avoided. You may feel a moral obligation to help a patient who had been injured because of a colleague's negligence. Or you may need to step forward because a colleague is endangering patient safety owing to incompetence, greed, or drug or alcohol problems.

Even when such testimony is required, the stakes are extremely high. Friendships and partnerships have been disrupted or permanently terminated. You could alienate physicians who refer patients to you, or other physicians who will be enraged that you testified against a colleague.

How do such situations arise? You could be subpoenaed to testify in a malpractice case. A hospital peer review committee or state licensing board may require your testimony as well. Healthcare fraud investigations could cause government agencies to demand your input. You also may be asked to testify in sexual harassment, divorce, and custody matters.

We talked to several physicians and attorneys for advice on how doctors can decide when to testify, and how to testify in a way that won't jeopardize themselves or their relations with colleagues.


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