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Doctor Says He Was Pressured Not To Testify

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A pathologist affiliated with the University of New Mexico testified this week that he was intimidated by efforts to get him to withdraw as a plaintiff’s expert in a medical malpractice case involving the university.

An afternoon of testimony wasn’t enough to complete a hearing on a request to sanction the UNM regents for forcing the pathologist into withdrawing from the case. Second Judicial District Judge Alan Malott said he would try to find another half-day in November to conclude testimony on the motion that has become as involved as the underlying civil lawsuit.

Carl Bettinger, who represents a woman whose Caesarean section at Lovelace Women’s Hospital went horribly amiss in January 2009, has asked the court to find that UNM engaged in witness tampering because “higher-ups” pressured Dr. Ian Paul, an Office of the Medical Investigator pathologist and a then-assistant professor at the medical school, not to testify for the woman.

The woman sued Lovelace and UNM because a medical school resident was involved in the surgery.

The pressure for Paul to withdraw came from senior university trial counsel Scot Sauder, who testified Monday that he believed it was a conflict of interest for Paul to serve as a private, paid expert for a client who was suing the UNM regents, among other defendants.

Paul testified Monday that he felt intimidated and vulnerable at a particularly sensitive time in his career by the repeated contacts Sauder made to his boss at OMI, Dr. Ross Zumwalt; the pathology department chair Dr. Thomas Willliams; and Dr. Paul Roth, whose many titles include dean of the school of medicine and chancellor of the UNM Health Sciences Center. Sauder did not contact Paul directly, and responded to Paul’s e-mail asking to discuss the matter two months after contacting Paul’s bosses.

Paul had informed both Zumwalt and Williams that he planned to be an expert in the case, and neither had a problem with it at the time, according to their testimony.

Roth said that when Sauder advised him that he believed Paul’s testimony violated university policy, he “accepted it as fact” and said it was appropriate for Sauder to reach out to Zumwalt and Williams.

Paul eventually did withdraw as an expert in the litigation.
— This article appeared on page C02 of the Albuquerque Journal