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NEUROLOGISTS IN THE COURTROOM

I would like some clarification on statements in “Neurologists in the Courtroom: How the Profession Regulates Expert Testimony” (Dec. 19, page 1). The writer stated that courts have clashed about the issue of whether the complaints are immune from lawsuits.

My understanding of these two court cases is that they are really different. The Kansas case involved two individuals who are members of the American College of Obstetrics-Gynecology. Therefore, the actions of a member, when identified by a complaint from another member, can be reviewed by their professional society. The Florida case involved a complaint filed by Florida physicians about the actions of an out-of-state physician who was not a member of the Florida Medical Association. Therefore, this professional society had no grounds to pursue a complaint against an individual who was not a member.

Even if I am not a lawyer, it appears that these are two issues: 1) Professional societies can, in good faith, review the actions of their members and take appropriate action with no realistic threat of a defamation or slander lawsuit. This has been affirmed by the courts. 2) Professional societies cannot conduct an investigation of the actions of a nonmember just because members file a complaint. Furthermore, these voluntary membership organizations cannot unilaterally state that they will review the behavior of any physician who testifies in their state, regardless of whether this physician is or is not a member of the society.

Max Wiznitzer, MD

Rainbow Babies & Children's Hospital, Cleveland, Ohio