No More Curbside Consults???

Check this out. What you will find is a post, from the Pediatrician pictured here, that would scare the hell out of me if I were a physician.

In a nutshell, he reports on a recent court decision that found that “the existence of a physician-patient relationship is not a prerequisite for a medical malpractice action. Rather, a person may sue a physician for malpractice – even if that person was not a patient of the physician – if the harm suffered by the person was a “reasonably foreseeable consequence” of the physician’s actions.”  

In the case under discussion, an NP called a Hospitalist for guidance as to whether a patient standing in front of her (NOT in the hospital!) should be admitted. The Hospitalist said no, and the patient went home. And died. Of a serious infection.

And now the court has found that the Hospitalist could be sued for malpractice. In absentia! Just think about how often the average physician is asked to give an off the cuff diagnosis or treatment recommendation “for a friend” of a person encountered at a cocktail party. Doctors are going to have to start to think twice about offering such free advice.

I’m thinking about my wonderful Dermatologist, who also sits across the aisle from me in church. She was joking one day with me about the number of parishioners who think nothing of coming up to her after Mass and asking her to “take a quick look” at a lesion on their face, hand, etc. BUT. She is too smart to fall for that. Rather than take a quick look and maybe miss a melanoma, she tells such interlopers that “The light isn’t really good enough in here to let me do that. Please make an appointment.”

Bottom Line. I am guessing that as word gets out about this recent court decision and how wide reaching its effects might be, there are going to be a lot of doctors who are going to be very careful about what they say too whom, given that it is no longer just their “patients” that can bite them with law suits. A careful reading will reveal that there were a lot of extenuating circumstances in this case, but still!  

Like I keep saying, just when we thought we knew all of the reasons why being a doctor is a tough way to make a living…

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