Lead Article – August 2018


This is the 17th edition of “The Medicolegal Mind” and since it is being issued monthly, we have been going for that many months. The number of subscribers has grown steadily and it is heartening to see that the readership not only opens the email, but the majority of you also delve deeply into the subsections. It appears that the Lead Article is the most interesting and popular but many of you also appear to enjoy the Case Vignette and the General Advice.

Over the last year or more, I have been receiving correspondence with both congratulations and constructive criticism. Those criticisms have been particularly invaluable. They have served to improve the subsequent newsletter content, have educated me on matters of a legal nature and have also improved my general medicolegal reporting. I am indebted to you.

This edition, like subsequent missives, will address some of the questions that have been posed by the readership with appropriate responses.

You will find the Question and Answer Section at the end of each newsletter.

How Much Should The Expert Divulge?

This is a quasi-revisitation of a previous article when I put the proposition that whereas medical practitioners are in pursuit of the whole truth, legal practitioners are sometimes a little more selective. Not for a moment am I suggesting that lawyers deal in lies – on the contrary. What I am suggesting however is that some parts of the truth can be inconvenient. They are sometimes therefore deleted from the script.


An expert with a “loose tongue” could become a stray cannon for the plaintiff or the defendant. The issue of causation should not cause too much difficulty. Apportionment of blame however could become particularly thorny. This could relate to some past history that had not hitherto been discovered by either side of the argument.

Aug 2018 LA - thoughtful doc on blue background

Opinions expressed upon future economic loss could also be both unnecessary and confusing. It is all very well for an orthopaedic surgeon to say that an injured plaintiff could work as a waitress, a kitchen hand or even a shop assistant in a Bunnings hardware store. Not many orthopaedic surgeons however have actually worked in any or all of those professions or remunerative pursuits. Some of the advice provided by the expert orthopaedic surgeon can veer towards the gratuitous.

Whilst the Court sometimes craves advice, this should not tempt the expert into straying into foreign territory. Opinions that are expressed should be based upon real evidence, propositions that can be tested and truth. There is no room for speculation, guesstimates or approximations.

When young orthopaedic surgeons are training to become consultants, examination fever gradually reaches a peak. Given the zealous pursuit of success, trainees are sometimes too eager to provide an answer. It is worth remembering that the simple phrase “I don’t know” can be exceedingly powerful.

Aug 2018 LA - woman in blue shrugging

In essence therefore, the expert is obliged to divulge the whole truth, but only the truth that is truly true. It could be worth your while to remind your expert of this issue from time to time. Good luck with the interchange!