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Can a Doctor be Prosecuted for Providing Treatment that has not been Proven

Apr 23, 2015 | Medical Malpractice

Can a doctor choose to treat a patient with a treatment that has not been proved to work or a treatment that does not conform to the accepted standards of medical care?

Doctor must Conform to the Accepted Standards of Medical Care

The answer is no. A doctor cannot simply choose a treatment because somebody else has tried it in the past. A treatment should conform to the accepted standards of medical care, or should have some scientific basis, which shows that such a treatment could work. A doctor is supposed to conform to accepted practices for treating a particular disease or ailment, and is not supposed to perform any procedure or give any treatment that has not been scientifically tested before.

This is a human being, not a guinea pig.

An Actual Example of a Doctor Providing an Unscientific Treatment

Here is a typical instance of a doctor violating the basis standards of care, in a failure to diagnose cancer. The patient had gone to this board certified urologist with certain complaints, and the doctor started to treat these complaints by giving the patient coffee enemas. Needless to say, this treatment did not work. The patient developed cancer and continued to have the cancer grow throughout his body, and was not recognized by the doctor until it had spread throughout his entire body.

At the deposition and trial, the doctor was asked a key question. The plaintiff’s lawyer asked, "Doctor, you claim that you can treat cancer with coffee enemas. Can you show me any scientific proof; any medical proof that confirms you can treat cancer with coffee enemas?" The doctor was obviously unable to come with any proof or medical studies that supported treating cancer with coffee enemas.

The lawyer then asked the doctor, why he treated this patient with coffee enemas, for which the doctor replied that he had heard anecdotally that such treatment would work. The lawyer then asked if that was the accepted and basic standard of care that should be provided to a patient with cancer. The doctor had no other choice but to say that he had violated the basic standards of medical care; probably hoping it would work making him famous.

Grounds for a Medical Malpractice Case

The job of a doctor or urologist, as in this case, is to diagnose and treat the patient. Furthermore, the treatment provided should conform to good and accepted standards of medical practice. A doctor cannot provide medical care and treatment that departs, deviates, or violates the basic standards of medical care. Especially, when there is no confirmation or scientific evidence, which confirms that this type of treatment actually works, or does anything beneficial for a patient with cancer or any other type of disease.

Hence, this would be a clear example, where the doctor has violated the basic standards of care, and has used a treatment approach that is not only untested but also has no scientific basis. This would clearly prove liability for the doctor, which means the doctor can be held liable for what he has done.