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Patient noncompliance is a common defense to malpractice suits

| Mar 18, 2020 | Medical Malpractice Defense |

Medical malpractice claims are some of the biggest risks that doctors have to deal with as part of their chosen profession. Malpractice lawsuits, when successful, can result in hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars in compensation.

It can be particularly difficult for doctors to push back against medical malpractice lawsuits without looking crass or uncaring, but defending your profession and your reputation often becomes necessary when people bring frivolous or groundless malpractice claims against you. There are many ways to defend against such claims, but one of the most common and straightforward options is to provide evidence of patient noncompliance to the courts.

Why does a patient’s noncompliance matter?

For most doctors, patient noncompliance is a source of frustration, as it involves the patient failing to follow the recommended medical protocol. Whether the patient requires ongoing physical therapy to regain motion in an injured limb or needs to make an appointment and come in for additional testing to clarify what is causing certain symptoms, the patient must follow through with the instructions of the physician they visited.

If you recommend a course of treatment, request follow-up testing or prescribe medication, only to have your patient refuse to comply with your instructions, their failure to follow through can provide a defense against claims of malpractice. Basically, failing to follow medical directions and orders disrupts the care a patient receives and increases their likelihood of a negative prognosis.

Make notes of suspected noncompliance with any patient you treat

You generally don’t know going into patient care whether the person will become contentious and angry in the future. In other words, it is in your best interest to treat every patient you speak to as a potential source of malpractice claims.

While you don’t want to treat your patients with skepticism, you do want to record any statements they make that indicate they do not intend to or have not followed your medical recommendations. That way, if they later claim to have not fully recovered, you can produce evidence that at least part of the issue stems from the fact that they refused proper treatment or additional care, rather than incompetence or failure to diagnose something on your part.

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