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The Value of a Physician Assistant as an Expert Witness

Close-up of unknown female doctor with stethoscope.

Physician assistants (PA) play a vital role in the healthcare system, working closely with physicians and allied health professionals across all medical specialties. They provide direct patient care, diagnose and treat illnesses, perform routine treatments, and refer patients to physicians for more advanced care. PAs are licensed, regulated medical professionals who have prescribing authority in every state and can prescribe controlled substances in most states.

Because of their broad role in patient care, PAs are also involved in a significant percentage of medical malpractice cases. If you are handling a medical malpractice matter that involves a physician assistant, you need the right expert witness in the right specialty to build a strong case.

How a physician assistant can serve as an expert witness

In most cases, physician assistants are called upon to opine on the standard of care and whether the defendant PA met that standard. If a task is delegated to a PA by a physician, then the PA must meet the same standard of care as the delegating physician. As with any other medical specialty, attorneys need to retain a PA with the same or similar experience and credentials as the PA in question to describe the appropriate standard of care.

Even though physician assistants perform many of the same procedures as MDs and DOs, and even though they are held to the same standard of care, PAs cannot legally opine on the standard of care that should have been provided by a physician. The reverse is not necessarily true: in some states, a physician can opine on the standard of care for a PA, especially if that physician has supervised or taught PAs in their career. However, even if you have the option of having a physician testify about the standard of care, it may still be advantageous to hire a physician assistant who can speak with more nuance and direct experience about the standards physician assistants must follow.

In some jurisdictions, physician assistants may also be permitted to offer an opinion on causation. Again, even in jurisdictions where this is an option, it may not be advantageous, depending on the witness and the circumstances of the case.

Characteristics of the best physician assistant expert witnesses

In high-stakes medical malpractice litigation, basic credentials are only the beginning. The right expert witness matters, and that is as true for physician assistants as any other expert. An effective PA expert witness has confidence, credibility, integrity, and the ability to communicate effectively with judges and jurors. It's also vital to find an expert who is devoted to the truth and not biased toward one side or the other.

At Rieback Medical-Legal Consultants, we've been providing the best in medicine to serve the legal community since 1986, and that includes physician assistants with a variety of credentials and sub-specialties. Our experts are highly credible, experienced, and ready to testify in depositions and at trial. If you are considering or handling a medical malpractice case involving a physician assistant, contact us to find your expert.

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