Could a difference of opinion endanger your medical license?

Could divergent medical opinions give way to an ethical complaint? A recent article raises concerns.

Specifically, a recent study examined procedures that are common to the medical industry, yet discouraged by research. The researchers reviewed 363 studies of clinical practices described in articles published in The New England Journal of Medicine between 2001 and 2010. Around 40 percent of the studies indicated that a current clinical practice provided no benefit, and another 21 percent of the studies were inconclusive. Only 138 studies, or about 38 percent of the total, supported the effectiveness of current clinical practices.

Patients rely on their doctors to make informed consent. Yet when a commonly prescribed treatment is not supported by medical research, does this constitute medical malpractice? If a doctor were aware of contraindications in the research, would be it unethical for him to nevertheless recommend a drug or procedure because other doctors commonly prescribe it?

If a doctor’s recommendation is motivated by financial considerations, there may be a conflict of interest. However, there may be a fine line for distinguishing between differences of opinion and actual unethical behavior. Alternatively, a procedure that is not supported by research may be deemed a breach of the standard of care, perhaps warranting disciplinary action.

Our law firm has provided legal representation to many health care professionals. As the definition of unprofessional conduct continues to evolve, you will need an experienced attorney to help protect your investment in your career, as well as your license. To learn more about physician license defense, check out our website.

Source: The Atlantic, “When Evidence Says No, but Doctors Say Yes,” Dave Epstein and ProPublica, Feb. 22, 2017

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