ACR suspends prominent radiologist for malpractice testimony

The American College of Radiology has suspended one of its fellows -- a former associate professor of radiology at the University of California, Los Angeles -- for providing what the ACR says was clinically inaccurate testimony as an expert witness against another radiologist.

Dr. Darwood B. Hance of Redondo Beach, CA, has had his ACR membership suspended for 80 days through November 26. Hance declined to comment on the matter when reached by telephone by AuntMinnie.com on Tuesday.

Hance is president and chairman of a medical malpractice insurance company, Cooperative of American Physicians, according to the 2003 annual report posted on the company's Web site. He is also a board member of the American College of Nuclear Medicine (ACNM), with his term expiring in 2007.

The ACR's action against Hance will also be reported to the National Practitioner Data Bank, according to the college's associate general counsel, Thomas Hoffman.

The suspension came after the ACR Ethics Committee investigated a complaint submitted by Dr. Jeffrey A. Zuckerman, a radiologist in Fairbanks, AK.

Hance testified in a medical malpractice suit filed against Zuckerman and other physicians in 2001. The plaintiff was a California tourist who apparently experienced renal failure in the intensive care unit after undergoing an abdominal and chest CT study in Fairbanks.

Hance testified that a "double dose" of contrast agent administered to the patient led to the renal failure. The plaintiff dropped the case during trial in 2003, prior to any verdict.

In an interview with AuntMinnie.com, Zuckerman said Hance had no medical literature to back up his "cumulative toxicity" claim for the plaintiff. "This is basically just a theory he made up," Zuckerman said.

The ACR Ethics Committee received Zuckerman's complaint in February, and referred it to an independent third party for review, according to Hoffman. In correspondence he sent to the committee, Hance maintained that his testimony was based on his own experience with contrast agents.

But based on the third-party report and its own review of the evidence, the Ethics Committee decided at an August hearing "that Dr. Hance's testimony was not clinically accurate," Hoffman said.

The ACR Code of Ethics states that, "In providing expert medical testimony, members should exercise extreme caution to ensure that the testimony provided is nonpartisan, scientifically correct, and clinically accurate."

In the last year, the ACR has received 13 ethics complaints related to expert testimony, including six complaints in just the last two months. Hoffman credited the increasing pace to the publicizing of ACR actions in other cases.

Since it began hearing complaints regarding expert testimony by ACR members two years ago, the Ethics Committee has completed reviews of five cases. The complaints have resulted in one expulsion of a member, one censure, two findings of no ethical violation, and the latest involving the suspension of Hance.

The ACR only makes public the names of members who are suspended or expelled.

Zuckerman complimented the ACR for taking action on complaints against its members.

"I'm glad that finally there's a way that we can fight back," said Zuckerman, noting that Hance's testimony included acknowledging an income of $70,000 per year from expert-witness work.

Zuckerman added that his complaints to other organizations that Hance belongs to, including the ACNM, came to nothing. Thus, the decision by groups like the ACR to act in such cases was particularly laudable, he believes.

"I think it's important for medicine in general," Zuckerman said. "We've been beaten up for too long, and it's time to take a stand."

By Tracie L. Thompson
AuntMinnie.com staff writer
October 20, 2004

Related Reading

ACR expels member for improper lawsuit testimony, July 9, 2004

Medical malpractice legislation: An all-around non-starter? July 8, 2004

AMA delegates chastise doctor for suggesting care refusal to plaintiff attorneys, June 14, 2004

ACR weighs more allegations over expert testimony, April 27, 2004

'Threatening' article to mammo expert throws malpractice case into disarray, December 16, 2003

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