How to Approach the Law and Lawyers
Where law once had little day-to-day impact on medical practice, law now permeates every corner of medical care and affects all medical care practitioners. The penalties have also changed. Not long ago most medical legal issues just involved a medical malpractice claim. Now providers can face huge, uninsured civil fines and even jail time. Medical care practitioners now accept that patients should learn about their diseases and treatments. This facilitates more effective informed consent and makes patients more effective partners in their own care. It is common to find patients with chronic conditions who know more about their diseases than most physicians. Medical care practitioners must adopt this same attitude themselves about the law.
Just as patients need not become doctors or nurses to take some responsibility for the management of their medical conditions, a medical care practitioner need not know as much as an attorney about law in general. However, it is critical to know how to recognize and avoid the legal problems that are specific to the professional’s own practice. This is a different type of knowledge than that of the attorney. Just as one does not need to know how to work on a car to avoid hitting a jay- walking pedestrian, one does not need to understand the nuances of antitrust law to avoid illegal conversations at the local medical society meetings.