Why volunteer? Clinicians
MJA volunteer medical experts illuminate gaps in care for the 2.3 million people currently incarcerated in the United States.
Judges and juries rarely have medical expertise and often don’t realize when the constitutional right to appropriate medical care is violated for those who incarcerated. MJA volunteers uncover medical issues and distill them into testimony that helps judges better determine how to support client rights while promoting public safety.
How it works
Attorney identifies a client medical concern and submits a case request
Attorney and client sign an indemnification agreement and MJA pairs them with a physician
Physician reviews the medical records provided by lawyers and evaluates the concerns raised
Physician conducts a phone interview with client to clarify any questions
Physician provides attorney written testimony regarding medical care
Physician and attorney provide feedback and legal team shares case results
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MJA provides all the training needed to volunteer, including video tutorials, written declaration samples, and mentorship with experienced expert witnesses. Cases typically take around 6 hours of time over the course of 2 to 4 weeks. MJA understands fluctuating clinical workloads and there is never obligation to take a case.
Physicians not only support the medical rights of those in carceral facilities, but also gain valuable expert witness experience that can be used in other legal work.
Cases take volunteers around six hours to complete on average spread over 2-4 weeks. However, there is considerable variation due to experience of the volunteer and the number of pages medical records to review. MJA volunteers can fit in cases as their schedule allows.
MJA provides initial training, writing guides, and sample written testimony [sometimes called declarations]. While working on a case, you will have personal support from a senior member of the team to discuss notes, review the testimony, and answer any questions.
While a judge could potentially request in-person testimony, this is rare and typically virtual. If a request were made, MJA would work closely with you and the legal team to determine if in-person testimony is feasible and provide support.
Our clients and their legal teams sign indemnification agreements to protect medical volunteers. In general, expert witnesses are immune from being sued. Volunteers do not enter into a physician-patient relationship so malpractice does not apply. However, volunteers should avoid providing specific treatment recommendations (such as a specific medication and dose).
MJA encourages direct communication with the lawyer’s clients, however, some cases may only involve record review. Additionally, if you have specific questions for the client, the legal team can ask the client or set up a call for you to speak with the client directly.
People in carceral facilities have a constitutional right to medical care, regardless of their background. In certain situations, a carceral facility cannot provide a safe environment and it is both legally and ethically sound to advocate for a different arrangement. Ultimately, it is a judge who must determine how to reconcile a medical need with a client’s sentence or carceral situation.
MJA is a network of volunteers and there is no direct payment for your work. Occasionally, law firms with adequate financial resources choose to support MJA through donating a steeply-discounted, “low bono” fee for your expert witness volunteer work, which helps to cover MJA’s operating expenses. Thus, your volunteerism will not only help an incarcerated person get medical care, but may also support MJA’s sustainability.
MJA volunteers gain valuable expertise in the principles and practice of providing expert witness testimony, which can lead to paid expert witness opportunities through other law firms.
We do not provide CME certificates. However, physicians can claim AMA PRA Category 2 Credit™ if they participate in medical-legal training, peer review, review of authoritative medical literature, and medical writing.
Lawsuits involving care in carceral facilities name the state or country rather than an individual. While the care provided by a clinician may be below the standard of care, MJA focuses on repairing systems of care rather than punishing individuals.
Yes, and we encourage you to. As a volunteer, you may call yourself a Medical Expert Witness of the Medical Justice Alliance.