Under Maryland law, every medical malpractice case requires testimony from an expert witness. In fact, Rule 5-702 denotes that expert testimony may be admitted if the court decides that the testimony will help the trier of fact (either the judge or jury) understand the evidence or determine a fact at issue in the case. The expert witness in a medical malpractice case is typically a professional in the same specialty as the defendant. For example, if the defendant is an obstetrician, the expert witness will likely be an obstetrician.
In a recent case, a Maryland appeals court considered the issue of expert witnesses. In that case, the plaintiff brought a medical malpractice claim against her doctor for failing to obtain informed consent. Informed consent is the process through which a medical professional discloses appropriate information to a patient so that the patient knows the material risks and benefits associated with a particular course of treatment and can make an informed decision about whether or not to proceed.
In the case at hand, the defendant was the plaintiff’s obstetrician throughout two of her pregnancies in the early 2000s. The plaintiff’s first child was a healthy newborn with no sign of harm to the newborn’s shoulder. However, the child’s chart revealed conflicting information about whether the child had suffered shoulder dystocia. A past shoulder dystocia can increase the likelihood of dystocia in the next child, but this prospect was not taken into account for the plaintiff’s second pregnancy. During the second birth, the plaintiff’s baby suffered shoulder dystocia, which led to a serious and permanent birth injury.