Nearly 20 years have gone by since a doctor was called to the witness stand to testify about the surgical skills of his partner. The surgeon was asked in a medical malpractice trial if his partner's work had ever been substandard. "No, never," he replied.
All these years later, he has a blunt admission to make about his testimony: "I lied," the 77-year-old says.
A newspaper article on the South Dakota surgeon's admission says it is impossible to know if the lie affected the outcome of the malpractice trial. However, what is known is that the jury sided with the partner and that the doctor with a (belated) conscience testified on his behalf.
“From that very moment I knew I had lied — lied under oath — and violated all my pledges of professionalism that came with the Doctor of Medicine degree and membership in the [American Medical Association],” the surgeon wrote.
When the doctor was interviewed by ProPublica, he said he felt professional pressure to protect his colleague, though he had vowed to always be an advocate for patients.
"But that goes out the window because here you are, banding together with your peers," he said.
These days he says he is helping medical malpractice victims pursue compensation and justice. He says he has helped the attorneys of malpractice plaintiffs with their cases. He does not explicitly mention that he has a guilty conscience, but that seems possible. At least he is taking some steps decades later to become, as he once vowed, an advocate for patients.