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Monday, July 21, 2008

Courts - "Med school for judges: A crash course in medical litigation"

A long and very interesting article in the American Medical News, reported by Amy Lynn Sorrel. Here is a quote from within the article:

After getting a rare, behind-the-scenes look at the case, judges got a chance to address their own questions to the doctors, scientists, lawyers and fellow judges participating in the scenario and others like it.

The occasion was the National Judges' Medical School, held at the Indiana University School of Law-Indianapolis in May. The mission: to equip judges with better knowledge of medical science to help them interpret complex health care cases.

Established more than two years ago, the program evolved from the Human Genome Project, funded by the National Institutes of Health, and the Einstein Institute for Science, Health and the Courts, a nongovernmental organization sponsored by the U.S. Dept. of Justice. The medical school is part of a larger initiative -- the Advanced Science and Technology Adjudication Resource Center, or ASTAR, based in Washington, D.C. -- that also educates judges on how to sort through other types of scientific evidence that arise in civil and criminal cases. More than 200 state and federal judges participate from 39 jurisdictions across the country.

Doctors hope the school offers judges insight into medical science and decision-making to bridge the gaps between medicine and the law. They share a common goal with judges: preventing unreliable or "junk" science from derailing the judicial process. * * *

The Indianapolis judges' school prepped participants with a crash course in litigation involving medical errors, where judges observed staged trials and sifted through clinical studies. They also peered into simulated conversations over treatment decisions among doctors, a patient, a health insurance executive and a hospital ethics committee.

The previous judges' med school -- and also the first, held at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine in 2006 -- focused on cancer.

The long article concludes:
Armed with their newfound knowledge, the 233 judges expected to complete the ASTAR advanced science training by the end of 2008 will serve as resources for fellow judges in their jurisdictions and help train the next generation of selected judges. The ASTAR program is free for invited participants.

The project aims to develop a corps of 500 active, specialized judges by 2010. Zweig, ASTAR's president, said it is up to individual states to create a system for deploying the judges.

ASTAR's board chair, Chief Judge Robert M. Bell of Maryland's Court of Appeals -- the state's highest level -- said the high court may establish a separate track to manage complex cases involving novel evidence and assign one of its 39 ASTAR-trained judges to those cases.

In Ohio, Chief Justice Moyer said the state Supreme Court is contemplating rule changes that would help courts identify its troop of 35 trained judges and encourage courts to appoint those specialized judges to appropriate cases.

Moyer hopes the medical profession "will find comfort in the fact that there is a developing group of judges who understand enough about the science of medicine to be better gatekeepers. ... Because at the end of the day, what we all want is for the judgment to be based on the very best information available."

Posted by Marcia Oddi on July 21, 2008 08:32 AM
Posted to Courts in general