Doctor Lied Under Oath to Protect Colleague, Now Admits It

Mark Crane

Disclosures

October 04, 2016

In This Article

Telling a Flat-out Lie on the Witness Stand

A South Dakota surgeon recently admitted, in a controversial article, that he deliberately lied under oath 15 years ago during a malpractice trial to protect one of his partners.

Lars Aanning, MD, now 77 and retired, said his conscience bothered him ever since. He was called as a defense witness for a partner whose patient had suffered a stroke and permanent disability after an operation.

While on the witness stand, Aanning was asked whether he knew of any time when his partner's work had been substandard. Despite having misgivings about his colleague's skills and knowing that patients had suffered injuries related to his procedures, Aanning testified, "No, never."

A jury found for his partner, although Aanning said he doesn't know whether his testimony was the deciding factor, as he wrote in an op-ed in the Yankton (SD) County Observer. He also posted the article in the ProPublica Patient Safety Facebook Group and granted an interview to NPR radio.[1]

"I... accepted the defense mantra that no negligence or break of 'standard of care' had occurred, and that the surgeon had 'done everything right,'" said Aanning, who now works for plaintiffs' attorneys in medical malpractice cases. "I wasn't going to be a squealer—fat chance!

"But... I knew I had lied under oath and violated all of my pledges of professionalism that came with the Doctor of Medicine degree and membership in the AMA. I had prostituted myself to the loyalty demanded of me by the clinic and my colleagues.

"In essence, no supporting testimony from a defendant physician's colleagues can ever be deemed trustworthy, truthful or true—because those colleagues have essentially sworn an oath of loyalty to each other," he wrote. "Breaching that trust would brand that colleague a whistleblower, a virtual has-been, and permanently mark him as a betrayer—with retirement or relocation the only viable outcomes."

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