Purpose To examine the relative qualifications of expert witnesses testifying on behalf of plaintiffs vs defendants in ophthalmology malpractice litigation. Design Correlational and descriptive study; analysis of expert witness and physician demographic data available on several databases. Methods The Westlaw legal database was searched for ophthalmologist expert witness testimony from January 2006 to June 2014. Physician demographic data were used as the main outcome measures, including length of experience, scholarly impact (as measured by the h-index), practice setting, and fellowship training status and were obtained from state medical licensing board sites and online medical facility and practice sites. H-indices were obtained from the Scopus database. Results Defendant and plaintiff expert witnesses had comparable mean years of experience (32.9 and 35.7, respectively) (P =.12) and scholarly impact (h-index = 8.6 and 8.3, respectively) (P =.42). Cases tended to resolve on the side of the expert witness with the higher h-index (P =.04). Significantly higher proportions of defendant witnesses were in academic practice (P <.05) and underwent fellowship training (P <.001). Conclusion Ophthalmologist expert witnesses testifying for both plaintiffs and defendants had over 30 years of experience and high scholarly impact. Practitioners testifying on behalf of plaintiffs were statistically less likely to work in an academic setting and have subspecialty training. Scholarly impact of expert witnesses appeared to affect trial outcomes. Surgical societies should stringently police for appropriate expert witness testimony given by both plaintiff and defense experts in malpractice litigation.
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