Magazine article Medical Economics

Even Your Patient Forms Can Get You Sued

Magazine article Medical Economics

Even Your Patient Forms Can Get You Sued

Article excerpt

There are lots of ways for doctors to end up on the wrong end of a lawsuit, but here's one you've probably never heard of. I'm familiar with the case because a colleague of mine represented the doctor.

Here are the facts: On his first visit to the doctor, a patient filled out and signed an information form--name, address, age, medical history, and method of payment. The doctor had prepared and printed the form on his own.

The doctor examined the patient and prescribed a drug to control hypertension. A local pharmacy filled the prescription. After taking the medication for a while, the patient developed severe edema of the extremities. Neither the doctor nor the pharmacist had warned him about this uncommon side effect. Instead of returning to the doctor, the patient endured the swelling in his feet, ankles, and hands for several weeks. In time, his condition nearly crippled him, and he had to take a leave of absence without pay from his job.

At this point, he hired a lawyer and sued the doctor. The suit contended that the form the patient had filled out and signed constituted a contract between patient and doctor for medical services.

But the "contract" had no clause authorizing the doctor to prescribe the medication--or to do much of anything else. The patient sought not only damages for loss of income and pain and suffering, but also a punitive award.

Expert witnesses' pretrial depositions on behalf of the doctor forcefully defended his actions. After all, the experts said, hadn't he acted out of his best judgment as a physician? …

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