This case is disturbing, as it goes way overboard in defining medical malpractice.
There is genuine medical malpractice, and then there is questionable medical malpractice. The key to defining this lies in what the definition is or should be. This story is disturbing, as it goes too far overboard and leaves one wondering what one earth people will sue over next.
Evidently, a Christian doctor has been severely reprimanded for sharing his beliefs with a patient. The warning will be put on his record for five years. Five years for sharing a belief in God with a patient? While it seems too off-the-wall to possibly be true, it is true.
Apparently the committee investigating the complaint found that the doctor’s actions did not meet the standards required by a doctor, which begs the question, “Just what standards are required by a doctor?” That he or she be a card carrying atheist, shun religion and ignore a patient’s moral and religious dilemmas, when faith may be what they are lacking?
The good doctor, in practice for over 28 years, was investigated when a patient complained that he had discussed the benefits of Christianity with him. This same patient refused to give evidence at the hearing into the doctor’s so-called breach of acceptable standards.
Being that this was fundamentally a human rights issue, as well as an out of proportion reaction to defining medical malpractice, the doctor spoke with the Human Rights Commission, who represented him at his hearing, arguing he could not possibly get a fair hearing when the complainant was not present. Amazingly, the committee of the doctor’s peers ruled it was fine for the patient to anonymously testify over the phone. So much for a fair hearing. The defense had no chance to evaluate the patient’s responses.
According to the patient, who had a private medical consultation with the doctor, he was offered no other medical options and instead was told that believing in Jesus was the only way that his suffering would be relieved. According to the doctor, he did provide medical options for the patient but mentioned his strong faith in the Lord because he felt it may help his patient. He also said he asked the patient if he could discuss his faith with him and said he received permission to do so.
It is a key point in this kangaroo court hearing that the doctor asked the patient if he minded talking about religion and the patient was open to it. If the patient had said he was not interested, that would be different. Broaching the subject of Christianity or any other faith is fine, if the patient agrees. If not, it’s a bad idea.
Ultimately, the committee decided it liked the patient’s evidence more than what the doctor was stating under oath, a resolution to this situation that did not sit well with the doctor. Faced with a sullied reputation and a reprimand to remain on his file for five years, the doctor indicated he would ask for a judicial review of the committee’s decision and how it handled the matter.
This kind of stuff makes lawyers crazy. The committee was acting in a high-handed manner and was likely pushing the envelope of legality by permitting the patient to testify in secret and denying the doctor’s defense team a chance to question him and assess the evidence. This is hardly medical negligence, and if the world is coming to a place where a doctor sharing his faith with a patient amounts to medical malpractice, that doesn’t bode well for anyone.
Charlie Donahue is a New Hampshire personal injury lawyer located in Keene. Donahue handles injury cases in New Hampshire and across the United States. To learn more about New Hampshire injury attorney, Charlie Donahue, visit Donahuelawfirm.com.