New Ways Patients Are Suing Their Doctors

New Ways Patients Are Suing Their Doctors


I recently read an article by an attorney and doctor, Anthony Francis, MD, JD. This article went out to educate doctors of the trends in how patients are suing their doctors. It was interesting to me because I saw the article in the light of how many patients we have had who wanted to sue the doctor they had been going to before coming to us, but we talked them out of it. Please allow me to explain.

We have had many patients who were diagnosed, given chemotherapy and/or radiation, and then, after going through all they did, told to go home. They were told there was nothing more that could be done. We hear this all the time from patients coming into our treatment programs. Yes, its true, sometimes there is not much more that can be done but sometimes there is. We have had many patients that were not ready to give up and die, and live.

Let me tell you one story out of many. We had a male patient to present to our clinic, New Hope Unlimited, who had been diagnosed with stage 4 colon and rectal cancer. He had gone the traditional route of surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. After numerous rounds of what seemed like torture, the doctors explained to him that it had not worked and there was nothing more they could do for him. They explained to him he needed to go home, get his affairs in order and call Hospice. When Ralph asked about alternative medicine, they knocked the idea down saying it was just a money maker. To shorten the story, Ralph came to us, went into remission and lived another 8 years. He and several other patients wanted to go back and sue the doctors who told them they were going to die within a couple of months. We were against that and had to explain that was not the way to revenge. Getting well and walking in to their office and being a walking proof, was. It was a much more positive way of letting the doctor know he needed to do a little more research before declaring “The End.”

Dr. Francis’ article explained that in October 2011, the Washington State Supreme Court recognized “loss of chance” as a new cause of action. He sited a case that took place in Hawaii in 1972 where the Ninth Circuit affirmed the new doctrine in federal law. This active doctrine remained dormant for several decades but has began to resurface. It has been increasingly recognized since the late 1990’s. The cases involved “what might have been” if a diagnosis or medical treatment had taken place. It involves speculation and expert testimony.

I believe that no doctor should give false hope, but do not take away all hope. It is proven time and time again that the mind is more powerful than we want to admit. Just listening to the words, “you are going to die”, is proclaiming something that only the creator knows the date. Real, true medicine involves compassion and kindness also, which so many doctors forget. If you are a doctor reading this, I ask you to please be honest with your patients and let them know that as far as you know there are no other treatments that you are aware of or interested in that may help. Please let your patient know that they are welcome to try other things even though you may not know or understand the treatments. Please do not take away the patients dignity and right to live. It is proven that other things may work with the science to back it up. Your patient will have more respect for you if you tell them your truth, that you just do not know about other types of alternative treatments. This could also keep you out of court for being so closed minded.

I feel that suing doctors is not always the answer. Although certain events have their merit and need to be pursued, the complex aggravation of suing one brings about much stress and stress is the last thing a person needs when they are trying to heal. Go forward with a new life in mind and think about how many people you can reach and help by telling your story and giving them HOPE.

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