The Fitness to Practise Panel of the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service (MPTS) handed down a judgment resulting in the medico-legal practitioner Mr Titus Odendun being erased from the Medical Register. This case is of particular interest since, following his retirement, Mr Odendun had taken up a career as an expert witness, acting predominantly in personal injury cases. The problem is that Mr Odendun had embellished some of his qualifications and credentials when acting as an expert witness. A legal firm specialising in insurance litigation south of the border carried out an investigation into Mr Odendun’s qualifications and passed the evidence to the General Medical Council which brought the case to the MPTS.
The MPTS Panel found that Mr Odendun had falsely stated he held certain specialist qualifications and memberships of professional bodies in order to obtain “a greater volume of medico-legal work at a significantly higher fee.” The Panel held that some of the statements made by Mr Odendun as to his qualifications were dishonest. Mr Odendun’s actions were found to amount to serious misconduct and his fitness to practise was held, as a result, to be impaired.
There are a few core lessons that every expert witness can take home from the cautionary tale of Mr Odendun, be the field of expertise medicine or something else. It is essential for the expert witness to be accurate and honest about any credentials and experience under his belt as well as the membership of any professional organisation. Credentials and memberships should be stated clearly when giving evidence to the court, in any reports prepared by the expert witness as well as any CVs or online profiles which are commonly used as selection tools to find the right expert.
For example, Mr Odendun had stated on the oft-used website ExpertSearch.co.uk that he was a member of the Surgical Research Society. He is a member of the Surgical Research Society…in Nigeria. The Panel held that Mr Odendun should have been clearer about the organisation’s country of origin, considering that the website was mainly used in the UK and there was a danger of confusion with the UK-based organisation of the same name. Experts should also make sure that they pay the membership dues of any organisations that are mentioned in the expert witness profile, as non-payment may lead to a suspended or resigned membership.
Finally, it should be borne in mind that there is a difference between an expert providing an explanation outlining his experience in a particular field and labelling himself with an accreditation in that field. Mr Odendun had stated himself to be a consultant in fields such as trauma and aesthetics surgery as well as orthopaedics. Upon hearing evidence on the matter, the Panel held that Mr Odendun had falsely claimed to be a consultant in these fields, though he may have had gained experience in these fields during his working life.