Out-of-State Physicians Pressed for Licensure before Testifying. (Medical Malpractice Cases)

Article excerpt

RANCHO MIRAGE, CALIF. -- Forensic psychiatrists and other physicians who offer expert legal testimony may be under increasing pressure to become licensed in states where they take the witness stand, Dr. Albert Drukteinis said at the annual meeting of the American College of Forensic Psychiatry

A growing number of states are seeking to control out-of-state influence in medical malpractice cases, he explained.

"You testify at your peril when you re not licensed" in a particular state, said Dr. Drukteinis, codirector of forensic psychiatry training at Dartmouth Medical School in Hanover, N.H. "I think it's ridiculous, but it's not a nonissue."

Each state varies with regard to physician licensure requirements, according to Dr. Carla Rodgers, a forensic psychiatrist who is in private practice outside Philadelphia.

However, many states appear to be adopting policies that conform to the position of the American Medical Association, which holds that the practice of forensic psychiatry constitutes the practice of medicine.

Many speakers at the meeting argued that a psychiatrist is not treating a patient when he or she conducts a forensic examination and offers medicolegal opinion.

"The AMA has said you are practicing medicine as a forensic expert. They have said this explicitly," Dr. Rodgers emphasized. "Some of these states have taken this to mean you must pay them $600 and $1,000 a year for the privilege of walking across their state line to testify in court."

For her part, Dr. Rodgers has begun the process of becoming licensed in states, including California, where cases frequently arise that call for expert opinion by a forensic psychiatrist.

Other states requiring licensure by expert physician witnesses include Florida, Illinois, New York, and Texas.

Dr. William Reid, who is a forensic psychiatrist in Horsehoe Bay Tex., surveyed 45 state medical licensure boards several years ago. He disovered that 21 licensure boards required no local license for conducting a "purely forensic" examination. But 18 of the boards indicated that licensure would be required for instate examinations.

In addition, some states had rules that were unclear, and others allowed out-of-state physicians to testify if they were requested to do so by a state-licensed physician (J. …