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Introduction

The basic legal relationship in medicine is between the physician and the patient. This book also discusses various other legal relationships--the physician-hospital relationship and partnerships, for example--but these are business relationships and are not very different from business relationships in other regulated businesses. The physician-patient relationship is different from these business relationships because it encompasses many nonfinancial considerations. This relationship has become legally problematic because the historic values that it embodies do not represent the realities of present-day medical care delivery. For example, the law anticipates that each patient's care is supervised by a single, identifiable physician. This reflects traditional medical practice, not the team care model used in many hospitals and clinics. When there is a conflict between legal standards and medical practice, the probability of medical malpractice litigation increases. Sometimes these conflicts result from outdated legal assumptions, but in others they result from the business side of medicine's improperly influencing the physician's duties to the patient.


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