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Can Doctors Legally Lie to Patients?
When we visit our doctors, we trust them with some of the most sensitive and personal situations we encounter. However, some doctors can breach our trust and lie about certain treatments, conditions, and outcomes. This act can lead to painful consequences, such as delayed or improper treatment and emotional trauma.
Why Do Doctors Lie to Patients?
Many doctors admit to telling lies to their patients. However, not all of these lies lead to harm to the patients. A 2012 nationwide survey from Harvard Medical School revealed the following statistics about physician honesty:
- One-third of surveyed physicians said that they do not share serious medical errors with patients.
- Two-fifths of physicians said that they did not disclose financial conflicts of interests with pharmaceutical and device companies to patients.
- Over 55% of physicians often described their patients’ condition in a more positive light than they should have.
Technically, doctors can lie to patients – as long as these lies do not result in harm to the patient in question. However, lies that lead to improper medications, unnecessary treatment, additional health complications, and other injuries could be grounds for a medical malpractice lawsuit.
Proving Medical Malpractice in California
When you file a medical malpractice lawsuit against a doctor, surgeon, or other medical professional in California, your attorney will have to satisfy a number of factors.
- He or she must prove that you and the doctor had a doctor-patient relationship and the doctor therefore owed you a duty of care. If you ask advice from a friend who is a doctor, for example, you cannot hold him or her liable in a medical malpractice lawsuit.
- Your attorney must prove that the doctor breached the standard of care when he or she administered care to you.
- Your attorney must prove that a similarly trained and educated doctor would not have breached the standard of care in the same circumstances.
- Your attorney must prove that the breach of care led to your injuries.
- Your attorney must prove that your injuries led to economic or non-economic losses, such as additional medical expenses and pain and suffering.
Only in certain circumstances can a doctor’s lie be grounds for a medical malpractice lawsuit. If you can prove that the lie led to your injuries and damages, and that you can collect financial compensation for these damages, you could file a claim against the doctor in question.
The Importance of Informed Consent
One of the most central elements to medical practice is obtaining informed consent from a patient. You must consent to your medical treatment after the doctor provides you with information on the treatment. You should receive the following information from your doctor:
- A complete diagnosis
- The purpose and process of potential treatments
- The benefits and risks of potential treatments
- The benefits and risks of not receiving treatments
If your doctor lies or withholds vital information during this process, or fails to obtain informed consent at all, you cannot consent to medical treatment. If you receive treatment anyway, you could hold your doctor liable for not obtaining your informed consent and file a medical malpractice claim against him or her.
Possible Damages in California Medical Malpractice Cases
Under California law, you can collect compensation for economic and non-economic damages from medical malpractice lawsuits. California caps non-economic damages at $250,000, while economic damages remain uncapped. If you can prove that your doctor’s lie led to any of the following losses, you can collect damages:
- Additional medical expenses, not including the conditions present prior to the lie
- Lost wages due to recovery time from an injury or illness caused by the lie
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional trauma
- Permanent disability
- Punitive damages for intentional, reckless, and/or especially negligent behavior
A Bakersfield medical malpractice attorney at Rodriguez & Associates can help you determine if you have grounds for a medical malpractice case. Contact a lawyer to discuss the circumstances of your case and learn about your legal options.