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Exposure for consulting?

September 20, 2016
 
Question:

Hello Jennifer,
 
I was wondering if you could tell me the best way to avoid litigation when two physicians completely disagree with patient management in the critical care setting.
Is it best to sign off after evaluating the patient and charting an opinion as a consultant or refuse the consult all together? If you never actually evaluate a patient can you be sued if the patient dies from complications you warned the other physician about but were ignored?

Best regards,

SE


Answer: 

Signing a patient's chart or entering your own note certainly includes you in the course of care and as a potential target or subject for a malpractice case.  Most plaintiff attorneys "kitchen sink" a malpractice suit and name anyone and everyone involved in care. Now, just because you do not sign the note or participate in the charting doesn't mean you would be immune from suit. We live in a legal environment where a suit can be brought against anyone for pretty much any reason. The points you bring up about not being part of the care would serve as a defense to any suit - defense against being an actual party and also a defense from liability. If our firm were serving as defense counsel we would have to review a totality of the circumstances and see whether a motion to dismiss at the outset was warranted to have you removed, if you were named. If you are looking to take the most defensive stance possible, yes, I would agree participation in the charting where you are not the treating physician would lend to more potential exposure.   

No matter where you practice, do not practice without malpractice insurance.  In most states it is illegal to do so, and for those it is not illegal, certainly ill-advised!


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