The Physician–Patient Relationship
The law of all medical care practitioner–patient relationships is based on the physician– patient relationship.
The core of the physician–patient relationship is the exercise of medical judgment.
Consultants also have a legal relationship with patients.
Good Samaritan laws protect physicians who stop at accidents.
Contracts with health plans restrict the medical care practitioner’s right to choose the patients they will treat.
The basic legal relationship in medicine is between the physician and the patient. Although recognizing that there are many nonphysicians delivering medical care services, the courts and the legislatures still use the physician–patient relationship as the paradigm for the legal rights and responsibilities that flow between medical care practitioners and patients. At this point in time, it is unclear how much of the law developed for the physician–patient relationship will be applied to other medical care practitioners. Some duties, such as the duty to protect the patient’s confidence, clearly apply to everyone who provides medical services. Some do not—the courts have not applied the “learned intermediary” doctrine to nurses. [ Mazur v. Merck & Co., 964 F.2d 1348 (3d Cir. [Pa.] 1992).] Until the courts rule on more cases involving the legal relationship between nonphysician medical care practitioners and patients, it is difficult to predict which direction the law will go.