4 Medicolegal News 1 (1976)

handle is hein.journals/medeth4 and id is 1 raw text is: medicolegal news
A publication of the American Society
of Law & Medicine, Inc.
continuing medicolegal education

January, 1976

Lecture Series on
Patient Rights
To Begin in Early
An ASLM sponsored lecture series on The
Rights of Hospital Patients and the Con-
sumers' Role in Health Care Policy will
begin on February 4, 1976 at 4:00 p.m. in
the Ames Courtroom at Harvard Law
School. The lecture series will run for six
weeks, from February 4 to March 10, and
will meet every Wednesday at Harvard Law
School from 4:00-6:00 p.m. Topics to be
covered include hospital and physician lia-
bility, the emergency room, malpractice,
informed consent, human experimentation,
patients' rights, the right to refuse treat-
ment, the living will, unionization of hospi-
tal personnel, OSHA, certificate of need,
the consumer's role under the National
Health Planning and Resources Develop-
ment Act of 1974, and confidentiality and
privacy of medical records (including PSRO
Program Director and principal lecturer
will be George J. Annas, J.D., M.P.H.,
author of The Rights of Hospital Patients
(Avon, 1975). Other experts will also par-
ticipate, both as guest lecturers and as
commentators on the lectures. The fee for
the entire program, including all course
materials, is $75.00 for ASLM members
and $90.00 for nonmembers (single ses-
sions are $15 for members and $25 for
nonmembers). Full time students, interns
and residents can register for $30 for ASLM
members and $35 for nonmembers. The
lecture series will be accredited for continu-
ing education credits by the American
Academy of Family Physicians and the
Federation of Nursing Home Adminis-
trators. Physicians may also elect to re-
ceive credit from the American Medical
Association, Physicians Recognition
Award (Category II).
For a descriptive brochure, write the
ASLM, 454 Brookline Avenue, Boston, MA

Elliot L. Sagalf, M.D.

Recent court decisions and legislative
enactments in the medical and hospital
malpractice areas suggest a growing trend
toward substantial easing of the traditional
plaintiff's burden of proof in defining the
standard of professional conduct that he
alleges was breached by the defendant
physician, hospital or other health-care
provider leading thereby to his suffering
In an increasing number of jurisdictions,
the pool of expert medical witnesses avail-
able to plaintiffs in malpractice actions has
been significantly enlarged by court or
legislature abolition of the long prevalent
evidentiary requirement that an expert wit-
ness testifying as to the applicable standard
of care be from the same community as the
defendant (the locality rule) by allowing the
expert to be drawn from thesame orsimi/ar
community and, in the case of specialists,
applying a national standard. Also, in
many states, the plaintiff can compel the
defendant physician, even though an ad-
verse witness, to take the stand to provide
through his own testimony adefinition of the
standard of care he is alleged to have
In regard to the admission in evidence of
published standards of professional con-
duct and care, several states have, for
some time, permitted the introduction, fol-
lowing due notice of intent, of medical texts
and learned treatises without requiring
that the author or authors be made avail-
able for cross-examination. Now, with
widespread adoption by state legislative
bodies of mandatory arbitration and pretrial
screening panel hearings in medical mal-
practice cases, it can be expected that a
wide variety of published definitions of
standards of care for physicians, nurses,
dentists and hospitals will be made avail-
able for inspection and consideration by
arbitration board or panel members, and
even by juries, to be considered as at least
one acceptable mode of professional con-
duct against which the action of the defen-
dant (or defendants) can be measured.

Accordingly, physicians, attorneys and
others involved in medical and hospital
malpractice actions must be aware of the
types and sources of standards of care
currently available in published form to
avoid the obvious problems that will arise
should such writings first come to their
attention when produced by the adversary
party in a courtroom or other legal forum.
To aid in the pretrial or prehearing evalu-
ation of a given instance of alleged medical
or hospital negligence or other form of
malpractice, the following is a listing of
categories of currently available published
definitions and guidelines of medical care
that might be accepted as a standard of
care and the major bibliographic tools by
which these writings can be located. Al-
though every attempt has been made to
make this compilation comprehensive, it is
recognized that other potentially useful
source data undoubtedly exist. To enhance
the reference value of this material in future
up-dates, Medicolegal News readers are
urged to submit additional pertinent infor-
mation to the attention of the author.
Even If these standards do not clear the
evidentiary hurdles of admissibility, they
are extremely useful to attorneys and
physicians in determining appropriate con-
duct and procedures relevant to the issues
at bar.
Standards Produced by Hospitals
Most hospitals publish for internal use a
wide variety of material that, in part or in
whole, outlines recommended or pre-
scribed professional and administrative
conduct in the area of patient-care and,
therefore, can be considered as their own
definitions of minimal acceptable
standards of care. Included among these
are: admission and discharge procedures
for out-palients, in-patients, emergency
room, intensive care, recovery room and
similar units; rules and regulations affecting
staff physicians, department heads, interns
Continued on page 7

Vol. 4, No.1

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