Historically, attorneys would claim that in potential medical malpractice cases, it was difficult, if not impossible, to proceed against a defendant doctor. The so-called "conspiracy of silence" existed, causing the refusal of other doctors to serve as expert medical witnesses to prove that the defendant fell below the standard of reasonable care. This has not been true in Virginia for some time. In 1962, by a joint effort of the Virginia State Bar and the Medical Society of Virginia, a "Joint Screening Panel" was established. Its two-fold purpose was (1) to prevent frivolous claims from being filed against physicians and (2) to assist in the disposition of claims which appeared to be reasonably well-founded. Under the provisions of the Joint Screening Panel, a successful plaintiff would be given the names of three physicians who were experts in the same field as the defendant doctor. These physicians were urged by the Medical So- ciety of Virginia to appear in court as expert witnesses for the plaintiff to testify against the defendant doctor if the panel found the claim to be of some merit.
Thomas J. Harlan Jr.,
Virginia's New Medical Malpractice Review Panel and Some Questions it Raises,
U. Rich. L. Rev.
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