The healthcare industry operates within a set of strict regulations, laws, and standards made by the government. These policies are put in place because the industry is at the forefront of life and death situations.
Naturally, strict standards have to be in order to ensure that diseases are contained and patients get the best treatment available. In addition, these regulations are created to make healthcare professionals accountable for the decisions and methods they decide to use on patients.
Just like any other profession, doctors, nurses, and healthcare personnel are obligated to follow an ethics code. Their decisions and actions should be mainly based on the best interests of the patient.
Now, many things could go wrong, especially in surgeries and complex medical procedures. In some cases, even if doctors commit an honest mistake, or are in good faith, a court can still order for them to pay damages to a patient.
While honest mistakes would most likely just get a penalty or fine, deliberate mistakes and gross negligence are inexcusable. As a healthcare provider, you may suffer from serious consequences that could potentially damage your medical career.
1. Medical Malpractice
As a physician, you must be mindful of the legal criterion for medical malpractice. This criterion can be met when you are proven to be negligent in administering health procedures, or if you deliberately administered wrong treatments or prescribed harmful medications to a patient.
When adequate evidence is available to prove negligence, a med mal lawsuit may be filed against you. Notably, a large portion of medical malpractice complaints occurs in emergency care settings, operating rooms, and intensive care units. It is also common to arise in novel medical procedures.
As a practitioner, it is your responsibility to be extremely diligent and avoid questionable procedures that may raise suspicions of medical malpractice. Aside from that, always be prepared with a defense. Courts will consider a lesser penalty if you can defend your medical decisions and actions with Science-based evidence and facts.
2. Violation Of Patient’s Confidentiality Rights
Healthcare professionals normally gather sensitive and personal data to properly treat a patient. However, the data should be used for medical purposes only. The law protects a patient’s right to privacy. Hence, medical personnel cannot just disclose patient information to anybody except the patient himself or herself, or the patient’s immediate family.
Aside from that, there is a thing called physician-patient privilege. This means that the communication between physician and patient is protected and confidential at all times. Physicians, or doctors, cannot share or disclose whatever information their patients shared with them. This includes oral information as well.
A legal issue may arise when you intentionally disclose information regarding a patient. Even if you accidentally shared such records, you could still be held liable and may be jailed or penalized for the act.
However, there are certain cases where patient information can be disclosed to the public. This includes situations that involve public health and safety. Courts can also order for patient information to be disclosed.
3. Crossing Professional Boundaries
A patient’s vulnerability must be recognized and respected at all times. The law avoids situations where doctors could abuse the confidence and trust that was given to them by their patients. That’s why even gift-giving is prohibited in clinics and hospitals. Moreover, it is extremely unethical to develop romantic relations with a patient as well.
Crossing professional boundaries will only lead to complications, and will even harm your reputation in the long run. To prevent legal issues arising from this reason, it is your responsibility to properly conclude the physician-patient relationship when the treatment is done.
4. Failure To Provide Informed Consent
Informed consent is usually required in delicate and novel medical procedures. To obtain a patient’s informed consent, the healthcare provider should thoroughly discuss the medical treatment to the patient before its administration. Once the patient is fully informed about the possible benefits and risks of the procedure, he or she may sign a waiver of written consent.
Prior discussion allows the patient to communicate concerns and probe questions to understand the treatment better. Furthermore, the patient has the right to accept or deny the proposed procedure or treatment.
Again, legal issues may arise when you fail to communicate substantial information regarding an extremely important and risky procedure. This could also be regarded as a case of negligence and become the basis for a medical malpractice suit. As the doctor, you will be primarily liable for the consequences.
Summing It Up
Legal standards are designed to protect both parties—the physician and the patient. Particularly, these guidelines are created to ensure that a medical practitioner will practice extreme care and caution when treating patients. As a practitioner, it is your responsibility to adhere to these standards, not just to secure your patient, but to preserve a good reputation as well.