The medical profession is an ever adapting field that changes as new procedures and drugs enter the market. The newest line of treatments can be controversial at times, as well as the newest drugs to combat disease. Often, doctors innovate within their own clinic initially, and then publish a report of their findings. In other cases, doctors may use research from a medical journal, and adapt those ideas to their own clinical practice, while revising their clinical practice guidelines.
In either case, due to change, patients may feel that they have been treated unfairly. Some may feel they have been neglected by their doctor if the change is not clearly reflected in the practice guidelines. If this is the case, then a medical malpractice lawsuit may occur. However, simply because there is innovation taking place at a clinical practice, this does not confer that professional has engaged in malpractice.
Doctors have always performed a balancing act between their patients and the advancement of medicine. Case in point, historically, clinical practices used leeches as a form of treatment for a myriad of disease. However, medical professionals now know that this practice was highly ineffective, and did little to help the patient in any way. This was common practice, until research disproved the method, and clinical practices followed suit in changing their methods. The research, though, was in itself a form of clinical innovation with the testing of new methodologies that many doctors may have not even believed in during that time.
If malpractice lawsuits were as prevalent then as they are now, those doctors could easily have found themselves in the courtroom, even though history would prove their contributions vital to the advancement of medicine. The balancing act between doctor and patient has gone back even further. During the time of antiquity, doctors used medicine to treat patients, and at times, their herbal drugs were highly effective. However, many do not consider the clinical innovation that had to take place to reach those highly effective drugs- those doctors used trail and error, at times at the cost of the patient’s life.
Clinical practices face many of the same basic issues of innovation. Some diseases require a more aggressive approach. For some illnesses, the causes are unknown, so the treatment in many senses, is an estimate of what may work best. A clinical practice’s guidelines will note to many patients, especially at cutting edge treatment facilities, the inherent risk of providing their medical treatment. The outcome may be unknown, either a patient can stay the same (bad outcome), get worse (bad outcome), or get better (good outcome).
The odds are certainly not in favor of the patient, which makes a doctor’s efforts statistically harder. However, this does not mean clinical practices should avoid innovation, because this would inhibit future medical progress within their respected fields. Guidelines help to facilitate a practice, and inform their patients of how, in total, the office works. By doing this, it does preclude a doctor from a certain level of malpractice.
Yet, if the balancing act is slightly out of line then a malpractice lawsuit may be filed against the practice, even though their guidelines were clearly stated. That does not necessarily mean the malpractice lawsuit will be won. If the doctor fully informed the patient of the risks of the procedure, and was within the scope of reason when executing the procedure, then the case would have a shaky foundation.