Breaking the Doctor-Patient Relationship: The Suing Patient
I would like to bring up an issue for discussion that has to do with a breakdown in the doctor-patient relationship. What should happen to the relationship if the patient initiates a malpractice suit against the doctor or the medical clinic and yet apparently has not terminated the professional relationship? This event has happened in the past. What could be the consequences if the relationship was to continue? Would each party have sufficient trust in the other to make the doctor-patient interaction therapeutically effective?
In a San Diego, CA case Scripps Clinic v. Superior Court (Thompson) (2003), Cal.App.4th [No.D040569. Fourth Dist., Div. One. April. 17, 2003], a physician-group practice rationalized the decision to transfer the patient to another clinic by arguing that a physician having received an intent to sue letter "irreparably compromises the physician-patient relationship, thereby potentially compromising the care rendered to the patient. Patient litigants might not be as forthcoming for fear that evidence or information would be used in their lawsuit. Further, patients may also believe that their physicians will not give them balancedcare...for example, they might believe that a physician who does not timely return a telephone call is punishing the patient." (Thanks to Lance K Stell, PhD, FACFE, Charles A. Dana Professor of Philosophy, Director, Medical Humanities Program, Davidson College, PO Box 7135,Davidson, NC 28036 for the reference.) Does the physician or clinic at this point have the right to decide not to continue treating the patient and transfer the patient to another physician or clinic, if the patient’s medical condition allows the patient to be safely transferred? What if the patient lives in a geographic area where transportation to another caregiver would be lengthy and inconvenient?
It is my understanding that as the patient has the legal right to sue and the physician or clinic has the legal right not to accept a patient except in an emergency and a right to terminate care, not to abandon the patient but transfer the patient safely to another equivalent healthcare provider. But in this particular situation what is your opinion? ..Maurice.