The Battle Rages On for Malpractice Caps

Wayne J. Guglielmo, MA


November 16, 2016

In This Article

Mock Trial Fosters 'Kumbaya Moment' Between Medical Residents and Law Students

Typically, doctors and lawyers don't rub shoulders during their respective training periods, but that is not the case at one well-known college, according to a report posted on the website of Penn State News.[3]

An annual colloquium, started more than 10 years ago, is the brainchild of Steven J. Wassner, a professor of pediatrics at the Penn State College of Medicine and chief of the Division of Pediatric Nephrology and Hypertension at the Children's Hospital, and Gary Gildin, professor of law and dean of Penn State's Dickinson Law School. This year's event was organized by Wassner and Medha Makhlouf, a clinical professor of law and director of the university's Medical–Legal Partnership Clinic.

Eight law students and nine residents in pediatric medicine participated in the 2016 colloquium, which, as in previous years, took the form of a mock trial presented before a volunteer jury and centered on the give and take of a real-life medical-negligence suit. The law students made up the plaintiff and defense teams, and the pediatric residents served as defendants, expert witnesses, and team consultants.

Both sides prepared by poring over a binder of discovery documents and secondary materials. Then, about 2 weeks before the actual mock trial, the residents and law students on each team educated each other about the pertinent issues, both medical and legal.

"Law students come away understanding the complexity of the challenge that society faces in addressing medical errors," explains Makhlouf. "They get a sense of the strengths and weaknesses of the tort system and the pressures that physicians face in the practice of medicine."

This year's presiding judge was a 1990 Dickinson Law School graduate. The Penn State News story didn't indicate how she ruled.


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