The medico-legal value of consensus statements


The volume of medical literature that has been published in the last two decades is legion. For example, a focused PubMed search on child maltreatment literature from 1900 to 1995 yields approximately 9,900 pertinent articles in the MEDLINE archives [1]; however the same search for the last two decades, 1996 to 2015, yields almost 18,400 articles. In two decades, we have generated twice as much ink as several generations and nearly a century of physicians. The explosion of published medical literature in the last two decades has posed an intellectual double-edge sword. Rapid dissemination of the most current research and understanding has spawned a world of enhanced knowledge. But the mere volume of published literature has created significant challenges for even subject-matter experts in staying abreast of topics in their field. Additionally, the advent of open-access publications has further diluted the significance of peer review as a quality-assurance mechanism and has resulted in forums where unproven or untested theories can attain a moniker of validity for a small price [2]. In the current age of evidence-based medicine, evidencebased ratings scales or hierarchies of quality of evidence demote consensus statements and expert opinions to the lowest rank of medical evidence [3]. Yet in law, consensus statements and expert opinions (like those provided by intermediate-level appellate judge panels or Supreme Court justices) constitute the highest level of legal principles. This manifests another example of the dichotomous values of medicine and law: doctors and lawyers speak different languages, work in different disciplinary frameworks, and have different end goals. In the perceptive words of the Honorable Judge Barbara Rothstein [4], quoting the British mystery writer R. Austin Freeman’s The Eye of Osiris, 1911:

DOI: 10.1007/s00247-016-3609-8

Cite this paper

@article{Narang2016TheMV, title={The medico-legal value of consensus statements}, author={Sandeep K. Narang}, journal={Pediatric Radiology}, year={2016}, volume={46}, pages={601-602} }