Imagine seeing a patient who has a unique combination of symptoms. You can’t figure out an exact diagnosis, and no one else has been able to, either.
Looking at all the documents from multiple specialists and other individuals, you think that you know what the condition could be, but it has some unusual symptoms that don’t usually appear with it. Without a genetic test, it might be hard to find out for sure, but the treatment, if it works, could be life-changing.
If you decide to try this new treatment, is that going to be against the standard of care expected of you? What should you do?
Trying a new treatment? Get the patient’s permission
If you want to cover your bases and make sure you don’t end up with a lawsuit, one of the things you should always do is make sure your patient is informed. It is okay to tell your patient that you’re not sure what’s wrong with them but that there is a treatment that works for a condition that appears similar to theirs. You can explain the possible negative side effects and what will happen if it does or does not work. Additionally, as you try this treatment, you may want to keep the patient under a close eye and continue to run additional tests to rule out other options.
What happens if the patient is injured by the new treatment?
Sometimes, treatments don’t work like they should or have side effects that hurt the patients. As long as you were clear about the risks and have been clear about getting the patient to sign documents detailing their treatment plan, rights, responsibilities and other details, you may be able to successfully defend against any kind of malpractice complaint.
That being said, if you misdiagnosed or delayed the diagnosis of the patient when using a trial treatment, you could end up facing a lawsuit or challenges from the medical board.
You deserve an opportunity to defend yourself in any case. If you did what you thought was best for the patient, you may be able to successfully defend against licensing issues or lawsuits.