Unscrupulous defense doctors.
***You can also see the matching YouTube video for this post.***
This is a story about a not so rare occurrence at an independent medical examination many years ago. I hope some of you may take this experience and learn from it in order to protect your client’s (plaintiff’s) best interest. Even if you are an insurance defense attorney, it is important that you understand what is going on outside of your presence.
I have witnessed how doctors attempt to trick and manipulate patient’s words, putting words in their mouths, to get them to admit to pre-existing conditions that are not there.
This may seem great to you as a defense attorney, but you must understand that these so-called “doctors” are not Juris Doctors, they have no understanding of what a proper question is, no training to tell them that a leading question is not admissible, and more importantly, no opposing counsel present to put these unethical actors back in their place.
I customarily attend CMEs and IMEs as an intérprete and we are not allowed to participate in these medical examinations in any way other than interpreting and maybe filling out some intake forms.
In this particular example, a witness being examined for some bone condition is asked by the doctor in a very sneaky way “that pain you mentioned.. it’s from your arthritis, right?” (there has been no mention of arthritis to this point and seeing the doctor is nodding and making gestures wanting the patient to nod as well) Arthritis, being a long-term degenerative condition usually not caused by trauma.
A well-mannered Hispanic may feel it disrespectful to say no when a doctor is pushing you to say yes. Especially when doctors are considered honorable and ethical and in our experience, they are usually there to help you. This particular patient did not answer yes (maybe it had something to do with the excellent interpretation 😉 ), but within a few questions said the following:
“So, doctor, what was that thing you just diagnosed me with? [Arthritis?]” Meaning, that the patient, gullibly and naively was thinking this doctor was actually interested in his well-being and not setting him up to lose his case.
These “arthritis” doctors, as I call them, then manipulate the reports to say that patients admitted having arthritis prior to the accident. Putting words in their mouths and taking advantage of their (the doctor’s) position of authority. I understand if doctors were properly trained and the admission was well documented by a third-party recording, using a videographer for example. But a clear, overt manipulation of questions and hence answers to extract a particular set of words is unethical.
Plaintiff attorneys, I suggest you personally go to every medical examination or at least send a videographer. The benefits are not only what I mentioned but you may also benefit from helping your client better fill out the medical forms, as it is my experience that when these forms are filled out by the clinic staff, they are usually left with many empty sections that will come back and affect your client’s case. As staff is usually rushing the interpreter to fill these out.
Jose Vega is not an attorney and nothing here is legal advice and everything here is intended for lawyer’s ears only.