Most people interact with doctors only when they are injured or ill. These heightened states make it easy to latch onto information, even when that information may be wrong. It can be difficult to figure out what is what when many different medical professionals provide conflicting advice.
When dealing with ‘medical advice’ in malpractice cases, it’s important to the law to establish a duty between the caregiver and the patient. This distinction under the law is carefully constructed. When panicking in a hospital sett or emergency care setting, it’s easy to run into problems.
What do you do when a nurse, a staff member, or a well-meaning but misinformed test technician gives incorrect medical advice?
Establishing a Relationship
There’s a difference between medical advice and, as we’ve used here ‘medical advice’.
The first is information coming from someone that a patient has a formal relationship with. A patient has a primary care physician to establish a type of chain of command and a paper trail. These show that a doctor-patient relationship was established and that a duty of care is established.
A random doctor giving you off the cuff advice isn’t considered to have a doctor-patient relationship. Though, it is more often on the doctor to show that no such relationship existed than to demonstrate on your part that one did.
When dealing with a situation like large scale testing or blood donations, the technician drawing blood or administering the test is not given to the same relationship. They have a responsibility to act safely and with care, but they are not under the same duty.
Anything they may say in regard to a course of action or a treatment to take is not medical advice.
Duty and Do No Harm
Even a doctor that has a duty and an established doctor-patient relationship needs to be careful. They need to operate with known information and stay within the bounds of their own skillset.
A medical professional providing advice outside of their expertise falls under a clause known as negligence per se. They shouldn’t talk about things they don’t’ know and to do so becomes negligent.
Doctors and other medical professionals usually couch their advice carefully. They are quick to point out where the limits of their knowledge lie and to do referrals when needed. They may provide additional information to guide you or to explain why they are recommending a specialist or additional tests.
Though it’s important for doctors, nurses, and assorted other staff to communicate effectively to prevent ill-effects, that isn’t always possible. When a patient doesn’t disclose that they are seeing multiple offices, they may end up being treated in ways that are contraindicated.
A doctor that gets on television or makes a video recommending an action does not have a duty to a patient, but they do have professional ethics which those actions may violate. It is possible to look at improper ‘medical advice’ from a doctor in a broadcast as being a negligent provision of information.
Though tenuous, with the recent trend towards the rapid spread of disinformation in relation to COVID-19, this may be used more in the future.
Nobody should suffer from the mistakes or negligence of others. When medical malpractice occurs and bad advice leads to injury, it’s important to seek answers and hold individuals responsible.
It cannot be on the patient to understand things far beyond their scope and to be penalized for listening to helpful seeming voices during times of strife. Contact us to learn more about your options in establishing a malpractice case.We’re here to help.