Learning that a patient has accused you of medical malpractice is devastating. You likely are focused on how to best defend yourself against these allegations. You must decide how you will handle the negative responses and repercussions ahead. You also need to consider your options for defending yourself against the claims.
Determining a defense strategy requires you to take a close look at the circumstances of the case. Once you understand the scope of the matter, you can review the defense options that apply in your circumstances. To decide on the best defense strategy, below are some elements to consider when vetting your case.
Standard of care
The standard of care is one of the primary points likely to be addressed in any medical malpractice case. It refers to what type of care a patient should be able to expect a doctor to provide him or her. The standard of care depends on a variety of factors, including the information that is available to the physician at the time, the availability of diagnostic tests and the doctor’s own training and experience. For example, an oncologist would be held to a higher standard of care in a colon cancer case than a general practitioner would.
Keeping detailed patient notes documents that you did uphold the standard of care when you treated the patient. This includes keeping notes about the symptoms the patient reports and all of the test results. Special medical software can make the documentation process much easier to detail each patient’s condition, including which conditions you were able to rule out during the diagnostic process.
When you do any procedures on patients, getting the patient’s, or his or her legal guardian’s or parent’s, signature granting consent is paramount. It’s also prudent to have patients sign documents that clearly outline the risks of their procedures. The more information you provide to the patient, the more you are protecting yourself from the possibility of a medical malpractice lawsuit.
When patients are given options for treating their conditions, they can choose what’s best for them. If patients choose risky options and are made fully aware of those risks, doctors can use that as a legitimate defense strategy. The same is true if the patient declines the available treatments. This is one instance in which proper documentation is crucial just in case you do need to defend your treatment of a patient.