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COURTING TROUBLE

Dr. Naif is a young patch clamper at Blast/Clast Enterprises, Inc. who has published exciting work on ion channels on osteoblasts. She is also an avid reader of detective stories and courtroom dramas and when asked to appear as an "expert witness" in a case, accepts with glee.

However her enthusiasm is dampened when she hears the ChiefĎs comments on her voice mail:

Vera, this is David. I hear that Action Now want you to appear as an expert witness on their behalf in their case against the City. They claim, I am told, that the city is endangering their lives by fluoridating the water supply. I know that Fiona Physty, their leader, is a friend of yours, but she IS a certified flake. Also your expertise is far removed from what is needed. They need an epidemiologist, not an electrophysiologist. Also the legal view on causation is often at odds with ours and toxic tort cases are very, very messy. My advice to you, is DONíT. If you persist, at least get to know the issues at hand. Check out the Bendectin story. I wish I could talk to you personally, but Iím off to the Blast Conference in Capri. Hope this miserable winter will be over before I get back.

Comments:

Another problem that leads students to explore the legal ramifications of drug use. In this case, the issue of fluoridation raises a number of public health issues and the recognition that a "drug" could be more widely distributed than we think. Much of the emphasis in the discussions has focused on toxic torts, the role of expert witnesses, the contrasts between legal and epidemiological views of causation. I have occasionally invited a lawyer involved in class-action suits to come and talk to the students after they have completed the problem. This has served to reinforce what they had studied on their own.


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