ACEP has a formal procedure for addressing charges of ethical violations among ACEP members under the Code of Ethics for Emergency Physicians. The Code of Ethics describes principles of ethics, foundations of ethics, and a Policy Compendium.
ACEP addresses complaints related to the Code of Ethics and to ACEP’s Expert Witness Guidelines for the specialty of emergency medicine. These two guiding documents describe the role of individuals who are asked to render expert opinion regarding the practice of emergency medicine. The policy states that the expert witness “should review the medical facts in a thorough, fair, and objective manner” and “should not provide expert medical testimony that is false, misleading, or without medical foundation.”
The mechanism by which ACEP addresses ethics complaints is detailed in the executive document, Procedures for Addressing Charges of Ethical Violations and Other Misconduct.
Between 2001 and 2017, 14 ethics charges have been processed. All claims involved alleged unethical expert witness testimony. In addition, there were eight incomplete complaints that were not formally adjudicated by the Ethics Committee due to inadequate information from the complainant.
An understanding of ACEP’s Code of Ethics is important for all ACEP members so they can abide by it to protect our patients, ourselves, our colleagues, and the specialty of emergency medicine.
ACEP Expert Witness Guidelines
ACEP has written guidelines for emergency physicians to follow when providing expert witness testimony. These guidelines were originally approved by the ACEP Board of Directors (BOD) in 1990, and revised and approved in 1995, 2000, 2010, and 2015.
As expert witnesses, emergency physicians are asked to opine on standard-of-care questions pertaining to emergency medicine in cases of medical malpractice.
ACEP has established the following criteria to qualify as an expert witness:
- Be currently licensed in the United States as an MD or DO.
- Be certified by a recognized certifying body in emergency medicine.
- Be active in clinical practice for at least three years, outside of training, immediately preceding the date of the events in the case.
- Be chosen on the basis of expertise, not offices or positions held.
ACEP also outlines guidelines for expert witnesses to follow during a case:
- Possess current expertise and ongoing knowledge in area of the testimony.
- Give testimony that reflects the state of medical knowledge at the time of event.
- Review the medical facts in a thorough, fair, and objective manner and not exclude any relevant information.
- Be willing to have the transcripts of depositions and trial testimony subject to peer review.
- Do not provide testimony that is false or misleading, and do not falsely advertise oneself.
- Do not charge a fee contingent on a particular outcome.
Process for Adjudication of Ethics Complaints