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In re Williams

    Brief Fact Summary. Not without controversy Dr. Williams (Defendant) dispensed controlled substances in weight control programs.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. A medical board does not need to present expert testimony in every case to support a charge against a physician; however, there must be reliable, probative, and substantial evidence to support the charge.

    Facts. Dr. Williams (Defendant) provided controlled substances in line with programs for weight control.  The drugs were legally dispensed at the time in question.  However, many in the medical community did not favor his practices.  The Defendant was brought before the medical board on charges.  An expert for Defendant offered the only evidence.  The expert testified that Defendant’s activities did not fall below the acceptable standard of medical practice.  The board found against Defendant.  Defendant then sought judicial review of the board’s decision.

    Issue. Does a medical board have to present expert testimony in every case to support a charge against an accused physician?

    Held. (Brown, J.)  No.  A medical board does not need to present expert testimony in every case to support a charge against a physician; however, there must be reliable, probative, and substantial evidence to support the charge.  Broad discretion is given to medical review boards to resolve conflicts regarding evidence.  However, if the medical community disagrees with a particular practice and there is no law to govern the issue, the board may not use its own opinions as evidence.  The board is not compelled to meet expert with expert, it may reach a decision by evaluating evidence as presented in various forms.  In this case, the board did not hear any contradictory evidence to rebut Defendant’s expert.  If the board personally disagrees with a medical practice, it may not simply set aside the requirement for probative evidence.  In this case, if the board’s findings were affirmed, it would mean that a doctor would not have access to meaningful review of board decisions.  Reversed.

    Dissent. Experts are not needed by the board to state what constitutes acceptable medical practice.

    Discussion. Controversy remains regarding whether or not expert testimony is required to support a charge of violating standards of practice.  The presence of laypersons on medical boards compounds the problem.  It is uncertain if laypersons can properly evaluate expert testimony, which further slows resolution of this issue.

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