A Case Study of Medical Animation: Showing Both Sides of The Coin

“A thoughtfully conceived animation can have a considerable impact on jurors’ understanding of an event at issue in litigation” - ABA

Medical animation videos are useful for depicting complicated medical procedures. Its usefulness transcends educating and training new medical professionals in medical schools or at the hospital to make patients feel better and improve communication; its usefulness goes into the law court as it can provide help with gaining clarity and solving a case. In a court case where the jury and judge have no prior knowledge of technical medical procedures and they are to pass a verdict on a case that involves one, animations explaining medical procedures, events, and terms can come in handy. In fact, in an article published by The American Bar Association, it was stated that “the use of computer-generated animations and simulations is on the rise in courtrooms around the country, and for good reason—animations and simulations can greatly increase jurors’ understanding of complex issues and are of extraordinary help in products liability cases in particular.”

Animated videos are not only used by defendants, it can also be used by the plaintiffs in court cases. However, a Defense Counsel Journal publication written by  Webster and Bourne III(2016) explained that “a party that utilizes demonstrative evidence in the form of video simulations or computer-generated animations to illustrate a witness’ testimony must take care to inform the jury that the video offered is not a re-creation of the event being depicted, but is instead ‘‘computer pictures’’ to help them understand the witness’s opinion”. The case of Roy v. St. Luke’s Medical Center is a unique medical case to affirm the claim that either of the parties involved in a lawsuit can use animated videos.

This appeal stems from Roy’s medical malpractice case against Dr. Sane, which was brought after Roy was injured during an angiography operation conducted by Dr. Sane on January 10, 2002. Dr. Sane dislodged a previously implanted stent in Roy’s right iliac artery during the surgery. As a result, Roy claims that plaque in her subclavian artery was disrupted, embolizing the brain and triggering a midbrain stroke, resulting in significant brain damage and lifelong cognitive and physical impairments. Dr. Sane’s attorney was allowed to introduce an animated video during their liability expert’s, Robert Vogelzang, M.D., testimony.
The animation presented by Dr. Sane’s attorney was a 20 seconds clip explaining the defense’s and the plaintiff’s theory of the reason for Roy’s injury. The animated video portrayed Roy’s claims and Dr. Sane’s defense in a 10 seconds clip respectively.  Roy’s attorney objected to the use of the animation claiming that both animations fail to accurately portray the theories of experts who have testified. However, the court overruled his objection claiming that “it certainly would have been better if this could have been provided earlier, but it’s closer to just having a witness draw something in court or come in with a diagram to help illustrate testimony. And in that sense, I’m going to allow it.”

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