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Patient-physician Relationships

Relationships between physicians and their patients have been a critical focus of the medical field since the time of Hippocrates, and remains a controversial topic in the legal field as well because of medical malpractice. Physicians struggle with the balancing of their own interests (which are influenced by their own personal morals, beliefs, etc.), quality of care for the patient, and the patient’s interests. The physician is expected to provide a sense that the patient is both respected and safe under their care. United States law considers the medical relationship a fiduciary one; physicians are expected and required to act in their patient’s interests, regardless of whether their interests are what are best for them medically, or whether those interests may conflict with the physician’s own interests. Medical attorneys are placed at the forefront, and medical malpractice occurs when conflicts arise between the physician and patient’s interests.

It was during the second half of the twentieth century that the physician-patient relationship evolved toward a shared decision-making model. This model respects the patient as an autonomous individual with a right to hold opinions, make choices, and take actions based on personal values and beliefs. Patients are entitled to weigh the benefits and risks of alternative treatments, including the alternative of no treatment, and to select the alternative that best promotes their own values. Subsequently then, the relationship is no longer a paternalistic one forcing the patient to depend on the physician’s professional authority. If the physician neglects the patient’s own interests, medical malpractice results.

Physicians and patients commonly disagree over types of treatment, which in turn causes complications over deciding the appropriate action that should be taken, increases the likelihood of patient dissatisfaction, and inferior medical treatment. The difference between these could be the difference on one hand, between life and death, and another hand, extreme tortious conduct and medical malpractice, due to negligence.

Individuals who have felt, as patients, that their doctor neglected her decisions, acted self-interested, or failed to properly inform her of her various options, are strongly advised to seek legal assistance from a medical malpractice attorney. Please feel free to call Gordon Price Diefenbach, a Manhattan trial attorney who has been handling these kinds of medical malpractice cases for nearly 30 years for a free assessment. The 24-Hour Hotline is (917) 734-7111.

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