Gallup recently released its poll on honesty and ethicsratings in professions, and once again medical professionals topped the list. In fact, three of the top five professions Americans rated as most honest and ethical were nurses, pharmacists and medical doctors (grade school teachers and military officers were the others) – and nurses received by far the highest marks.
An overwhelming 82 percent of respondents rated the honesty and ethical standards of nurses as high or very high – a 12-percentage point lead over the second-highest profession – and 69 percent said the same of doctors. Interestingly, medical professionals rated highly across political party and age lines – divides where we often observe big disagreements among jurors.
This isn’t a guarantee jurors will believe the caregivers you’re defending and discount the plaintiff’s story – in fact, our own surveys have shown jurors tend to believe a patient’s version of events slightly more than caregivers’ – but we still recommend using this widespread positive perception of medical professionals’ ethics and morality to your advantage.
Beginning during voir dire, you might consider polling the jury pool about how honest they find medical professionals, and if they believe any have tried to act unethically toward them. Along with weeding out any potential jurors with axes to grind, you’ll use the power of peer opinion to make the point that doctors and nurses are widely trusted and respected. Asking jurors the reasons they tend to trust caregivers could elicit stories underscoring the fact that almost all doctors and nurses work tirelessly to do their best for patients.
Once you have your caregiver witnesses on the stand during trial, talk to them about why they got into medicine and the role of trust in the caregiver-patient relationship. This will help humanize your clients and reinforce the perception they’re honest and ethical, even if there are potentially lapses in care. Jurors are more likely to forgive an honest mistake if they have faith in the caregivers’ intentions.
Although Americans’ widespread trust in medical professionals is no advantage. If you have a case where honesty and ethics are a central concern – or you want to discuss jurors’ perceptions on other issues – please contact us at 714-754-1010 or firstname.lastname@example.org.