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Minerva Medicolegale 2011 September;131(3):67-73


language: Italian

The responsibilities associated with expert witness assessments

Nuzzolese E. 1, Montagna F. 2, Di Nunno N. 3, De Leo D. 4

1 Odontoiatra, Bari, Italia 2 Medico Specialista in Odontostomatologia, Sommacampagna, Verona, Italia 3 Università del Salento, Lecce, Italia 4 Università degli Studi di Verona, Verona, Italia


The role of the dental surgeon is to treat and heal oral pathologies, with the aim of improving oral health and masticatory function. As with any health professional the conduct of the dental surgeon should be exemplary, not only from a technical point of view but also from an ethical one. Medico legal activities also fall within the scope of the dental profession, including expert witness testimony in professional liability cases. When called to act in this capacity the dentist should combine his biological and technical knowledge with a sound medico legal education. As an expert witness the odontologist has precise responsibilities, and can be subjected to either civil or criminal proceedings depending on judicial system if found wanting. It is the authors opinion that dentist wishing to participate in the administration of justice, without specific training in medico legal matters should be aware of the inherent pitfalls, and that without specialist training should refrain from involving themselves in such cases, leaving expert witness testimony to those odontologists qualified in forensic sciences and medico legal doctrines. The optimum approach for an expert witness testimony in dental legal cases should be a collegiate one, bringing together the skills of the forensic odontologist, medico legal doctor and if appropriate the pathologist. It is only in cases of professional liability or in specific cases of forensic assessment such as bite mark analysis and human dental identification that the odontologist with a complete forensic background should consider working autonomously.

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