What is a forensic medical expert and what does he/she do?
A court-appointed medical expert is a medical expert whose function is to provide information, evidence and opinions (based on his or her experience and knowledge, as well as medical evidence) regarding a given patient’s case and health condition before a medical court or judge.
A judicial medical expert is then in charge of preparing medical reports at the request of clients (patients) and the corresponding authority that requests them. They are considered to be non-binding reports, since it is the judge or court who will be able to evaluate what is shown in the report and make the final decision on the case.
All medical experts are required to take an oath or promise to act objectively and impartially, with absolute respect for the patient and the Law, which also contains specific provisions regarding the explanation and clarification of medical experts. Thus, the Law establishes that, when technical, scientific or practical knowledge is necessary to assess relevant facts and situations, the parties may provide the opinion of an expert with knowledge in the specific field. However, there is also the possibility of an expert opinion being issued by an expert appointed by the court or tribunal.
The court-appointed medical expert, when giving an opinion on a patient, must state under oath that he/she is acting as objectively as possible (considering both what may benefit the patient and what may be detrimental), and that he/she is aware of the criminal penalties he/she may face if he/she does not comply. That is to say, the judicial medical expert must act:
- With objectivity. If he/she provides subjective opinions, they must be based on evidence and arguments.
- With forceful and impersonal style, thus being convincing before a judge.
- With brevity, precision and order, so that the non-specialized public can also understand his explanations, using structured and clear language.
The judicial medical expertise provides information on the patient’s state of health, in the
of the patient’s health, before trials and medical courts.
What is a forensic medical report?
A medical expertise or an expert report is a medical report that contains information and assessment of injuries, damages or diseases that the patient may suffer, as well as possible malpractice or medical negligence.
The medical expertise investigates from two perspectives:
- Legal perspective, with the medical expert adhering to compliance with established laws and regulations.
- Medical perspective, analyzing the objective facts, the patient’s conduct and its relationship with the specific harmful event.
The expert report or medical expertise will be, therefore, the instrument of communication between Law and Medicine, as well as the place where the answers to technical questions that may arise in a medical trial are materialized.
When is it necessary to consult a medical expert in court and why are medical expert opinions carried out?
It is necessary to go to a medical expert when it is considered that the person is entitled to a financial compensation or a concession of a legal situation, such as a dependency law or an incapacity for work. Also in cases of accidents or similar.
Thus, there are several situations in which a medical expert may be necessary to assess the patient’s physical and emotional damage:
- Administrative situations that require evaluation of the degree of disability or incapacity to work of the patient (Social Security or military service, for example, although the latter is less frequent in Spain at present).
- Civil, criminal or social judicial proceedings.
- Patients who have been victims of work or traffic accidents.
- Patients who have a medical insurance policy that must guarantee compensation for illness or injury.
What does the judicial medical expertise consist of?
The judicial medical expertise must contain the following information:
- Personal data and qualifications of the medical specialist who makes the report.
- The purpose of the report prepared.
- Personal data of the person requesting the report or expertise (name, ID, address, birth, etc.).
- List of the facts provided to the specialist and investigated by him/her, in chronological order.
- Sources on which the report is based: personal examination of the person, medical tests performed by the same expert or by other medical specialists.
- Medical history of the patient or other health problems that the patient already had.
- Diagnosis that dictates, where the injuries suffered must be differentiated from the sequels, as well as their extent, how serious they are and what incapacity they have generated.
- Causality: relationship between what happened and the injuries, as well as between the injuries and the sequelae.
- Assessment of the damage suffered by the patient.
- Conclusions of the report and how he/she would act as a specialist.
- Signature as authorized specialist and date on which it has been elaborated.
Preparation for a judicial medical expertise
In principle, no specific preparation is necessary for a judicial medical expertise, but it is possible that the specialist may request some specific tests to be provided by the patient: X-rays, magnetic resonance imaging, medical reports from other specialists, etc.