Published 6/1/2012

Court Upholds AAOS Professional Compliance Program

The Fellowship of the American Association of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) voted to adopt the Professional Compliance Program after the 2005 Annual Meeting in response to the membership’s desire for a means to address the issue of inappropriate or fraudulent expert witness testimony. Since its inception, the program has introduced several initiatives and has developed detailed Grievance Procedures to review, hear, and adjudicate professional compliance grievances based upon Standards of Professionalism.

The AAOS initially based its program on the judicially upheld Professional Conduct Program of the American Association of Neurological Surgeons (AANS). The AAOS program took nearly 3 years to develop, and the Board announced its first decisions in 2007. Within a year, the AAOS program faced its first judicial challenge.

On April 27, 2012, a Philadelphia federal jury returned a verdict in favor of the AAOS in a case challenging the AAOS Professional Compliance Program. The case was brought by a surgeon who received a 2-year suspension for violating the Standards of Professionalism on Orthopaedic Expert Witness Testimony.

The jury found in favor of the AAOS on three counts (breach of contract, tortious interference with prospective business relationships, and defamation) and in favor of the plaintiff on one count (false light publication); the plaintiff dropped a claim of commercial disparagement. The AAOS does not agree with the decision of false light publication, believing it to be unsupported and inconsistent with the remainder of the verdict, and is exploring its options for post-trial motions or appeal.

“The decision upholds the AAOS Professional Compliance Program as a fair and reasonable means of achieving truthful, honest, and medically accurate expert testimony,” said AAOS President John R. Tongue, MD. For more information on the AAOS Standards of Professionalism and Professional Compliance Program, visit www.aaos.org/profcomp