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52 S. C. L. Rev. 955 (2000-2001)
The Continuous Treatment Rule: Ameliorating the Harsh Result of the Statute of Limitations in Medical Malpractice Cases

handle is hein.journals/sclr52 and id is 965 raw text is: THE CONTINUOUS TREATMENT RULE:
Recently, South Carolina courts have been asked to adopt a rule that would
effectively toll the statute of limitations in medical malpractice cases when a
patient has remained under the care of her physician.' The principle is known
as the continuous treatment rule. The rule provides that when the doctor is
engaged in a continuing course of treatment with the patient because of the
nature of the patient's illness or injury, the statute of limitations does not
commence until that treatment has ceased or been terminated.'
Many courts have adopted the continuous treatment rule as an exception
to the traditional rule in which the limitations period begins on the date of the
negligent act or omission. This judicial exception was first addressed by the
Ohio Supreme Court in 1902.? In Gillette v. Tucker, the Ohio Supreme Court
had to determine at what point the statute of limitations began to run-the date
of the surgery or the date that the physician ceased treating the victim.4 The
Gillette court held that using the surgery date as the starting date for the statute
of limitations would improperly burden the victim by forcing her either to sue
the surgeon while her treatment continued or forego her cause of action.'
The importance of the continuous treatment rule increased after the
medical malpractice insurance reform of the 1970s. At that time, decision-
makers reacted to a perceived medical insurance crisis by enacting legislation
aimed at curtailing a rise in medical malpractice insurance premiums for
physicians and other health care providers.6 Some of the studies indicated that
I. See Preer v. Mins, 323 S.C. 516, 476 S.E.2d 472 (1996); Anderson v. Short, 323 S.C.
522,476 S.E.2d 475 (1996); Dunbar v. Carlson, 341 S.C. 261,533 S.E.2d 913 (Ct. App. 2000).
For the purpose of this Comment, the application of the continuous treatment rule is limited
to medical malpractice cases. However, South Carolina courts have contemplated the doctrine
in other professional negligence claims. See Holy Loch Distribs., Inc. v. Hitchcock, 332 S.C.
247, 258,503 S.E.2d 787,793 (Ct. App. 1998) (declining to apply the continuous treatment rule
to toll the statute of limitations for a legal malpractice claim).
2. 1 DAVID W. LOUISELLETAL., MEDICAL MALPRACTICE   13.02[3], at 13-48 (2000); see
61 AM. JUR. 2D Physicians, Surgeons, Etc. § 320 (1981 & Supp. 2000); 54 C.J.S. Limitations of
Actions § 174 (1987 & Supp. 2000).
3. See Gillette v. Tucker, 65 N.E. 865 (Ohio 1902).
4. Id. at 869.
5. Id. at 871.
6. Robert W. George, Comment, Prognosis Questionable: An Examination of the
Constitutional Health of the Arkansas Medical Malpractice Statute ofRepose, 50 ARK. L. REV.
691, 697 n.31 (1998).

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