As attorneys become more sophisticated about team medical care delivery,
plaintiffs are increasingly suing consultants. Hospital and laboratory-based
consultants commonly assume that they work for the physician who orders the
tests. Legally, this is not so: physician consultants who do individual patient
evaluations for the welfare of the patient enter a physician–patient
relationship, with all its attendant duties. If a consultant relies on the treating
physician to communicate with the patient, there are situations when the
consultant can be liable if the patient does not receive the necessary
information. The consultant must balance the conflicting roles of adviser to
both patient and treating physician. This can lead to some difficult decisions for
the consultant when an attending physician does not follow recommendations.
Consequently, a consultant must be as careful in choosing which physicians to
consult for as an attending physician must be in choosing consultants.