Facing the court: Medicolegal tips and advice

medical law


When you want to face court for any uneventful event, you need to follow some tips such as follows below: Expert Homeopathy

Avoid talking to the Complainant or his Attorney
Once the case is in the court, do not talk to the complainant or his advocate in a hope to convince them to drop the case. Any communication with the complainant or his advocate outside the legal setting may be missed against up by the opposite party. Your statement may have been distorted by the plaintiff's attorney in order to make your intentions appear fraudulent.

Avoid Finger pointing
The physician should avoid the blame game among his codefendants. It has been seen that once finger pointing begins, it takes a bad shape, and invariably the only beneficiary is the complainant. When the defendants blame one another, ultimately someone will be found at fault. The complainant's advocate may play a game to sue everybody in sight and have them turn against each other, and someone will fall in the trap and found guilty by the court. You might think that pointing the finger on your condefendant may help you get out of the case, but in reality it may likely ensure your stay in the case, as now your codefendants will blame you. However, if you are cornered, and you have no option than to reveal the information which may adversely affect your co-defendant, discuss the same with a defence attorney before formulating such adverse opinion.

Avoid Alteration or Destruction of Medical Records
If the case is in court, any modification (addition, removal) or destruction of the medical record can lead to disastrous consequences. Many physicians have lost their cases in court of low due to interference with evidence, even when they were otherwise not proved negligent.The doctor might think he could safely make changes in the medical records as it was always kept in his cell and there is no records could have been photocopied. However, the physician may not realize that the copy of the original medical record (prior to alteration), somehow exists somewhere and will resurface during the trial to defeat the defendant physician.

Appearing in a Criminal Case
While there is no requirement for a procedure that a defendant physician must answer questions a plaintiff before a consumer court, things are different in a criminal case where a complaint has been filled before the police and the case comes up before a magistrate for trial. In such a case, the defense physician and the expert witness may be asked to stand at the witness stand and answer questions raised  lawyer of the complainant. The following tips are suggested for such as occasion:

Avoid answering Yes or No
The plaintiff's attorney may insist that the respondent physician answer the question 'yes' or 'no'. It does not accurately describe the position, the doctor should explain the same, and not keep his answer in just one word. The respondent physician should also try to avoid complete words such as 'always' and 'never'. The complainant's advocate can try to first an absolute statement from the physician and then show the evidence to counter the physician's statement with a motive to damage his credibility.

Be Calm, Confident, and Professional
Any question asked by the plaintiff's attorney should be answered by the respondent physician after careful consideration. Regardless of the plaintiff's attorney's strategy, there are general rules that must be followed when answering questions. Be calm, confident, and professional but do not be arrogant. Do not interrupt the interviewer, as all the words used in the question may affect the meaning of the question, and any confusion may cause you to answer incorrectly.

Compound questions
The complainant's advocate my ask a series of questions in order to ultimately prove that the defendant physician missed the diagnosis. For illustration, he may ask:

Q.1: Did you rule out the risk of 'myocardial infarction' before performing the surgery?
Ans: Yes, I did it.

Q.2: Did you do ECG?
Ans: No

Q.3: Then how can you say, that you rule out myocardial infraction?
Ans: ECG was not indicated

Q.4: Did you know that the plaintiff died due to acute myocardial infarction, suffered one day after the surgery?
Ans: Yes

Q.5: Is Electro Cardiograph not commonly used in the diagnosis of myocardial infarction?

The complainant's advocate will continue such a series of questions and will try to confuse you to ultimately tell you that you 'missed' the diagnosis. The defendant physician can better control such attack of questions by asking the complainant's advocate at every stage to explain what he means by phrases like 'ruled out' the diagnosis, 'missed' the diagnosis. After getting the definition of such terms used by the complainant's advocate, the defendant physician must clear the confusion created by explaining the medical condition of the patient (complainant) and a list of managers followed by him.

Narrative questions
The plaintiff's attorney may make a long statement before asking the actual question. In such a situation, if the defendant physician answers the question, the court may presume that he agreed to the whole statement made by the complainant's advocate. In such a situation, where a question is preceded by a statement, ask for clarification of the statement and the actual question asked.

Open-ended Questions
The complainant's advocate may try to prompt the physician to volunteer the information not called for in the question by asking open-ended questions. If the physician volunteers some information, there is a possibility that the complainant's advocate will try to use the volunteered statement against the physician. It is advisable to give 'brief' and 'relevant' replies to open-ended questions.
During a long and burdensome cross-examination, the physician may make a mistake or misstatement. The physician should get the incorrect statement corrected by the court at the earliest. The complainant's advocate may quickly challenge you on your mistake before you have an opportunity to correct it. In that case, admit your error graciously to maintain your credibility.

Conclusion
In spite of providing the best possible care to their patients, and practicing the risk management strategies, there is still a possibility that medical negligence litigation may occur. Although malpractice lawsuit is a haunting nightmare for the medical practitioners, most of the physicians are usually unfamiliar with the process of litigation. It is imperative that physicians must keep themselves well-informed about the stages of court proceedings and how to handle the overbearing problem of litigation head on by following a well-prepared step-by-step approach.

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