Climate Change Project

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Medicine, more than any other profession, depends on the transfer of knowledge by the direct involvement of students in the practice of the professional. This involvement may occur in teaching hospitals, in community and private facilities, or in the offices of individual practitioners. The students range in experience from board-certified specialists studying a new procedure to first-year medical students trying to find a pulse. In either case, the students pose special medical legal problems and may subject the supervising health care provider to unexpected legal liability. This chapter will explore the potential sources of liability in the teaching relationship and discuss risk management strategies to deal with the risks involved.

There are two basic sources of risk in the teaching environment: (1) the treatment of patients by unlicensed practitioners, and (2) the conduct of medical research. While the conduct of research is the more emotionally laden issue, it has, to date, resulted in surprisingly little litigation. (The general topic of research and its potential legal risks are examined in the final sections of the chapter.)

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