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Trisha Torrey

No-Lawsuit Paperwork - Don't Sign Away Your Rights

By September 19, 2009

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A while ago, I told you about a company called Medical Justice that was selling a program to doctors that would guarantee they would not be rated on a doctor rating website. In effect, patients would be forced to sign paperwork promising they would never submit information about that specific doctor on a doctor's rating website.

It still boggles my mind that doctors would pay money for such a program! First of all, any doctor that would rely on gagging patients should not be practicing medicine. Secondly, I can't imagine any court would rule in a doctor's favor if a patient did recount his/her experience about a doctor online. And third - OK - so maybe the patient doesn't post on a doctor's rating site. What if s/he blogged about the experience instead?

As you can imagine, I advised you not to sign any such paperwork. Of course, there's always the question of what to do if that doctor insists....

That aside... at the time, I also asked any of you, my readers, to let me know if you actually encountered one of these contracts, and if you did, to send me a copy..... well....

No - we didn't get a copy of that contract. But, one reader (who shall remain anonymous) did send me a contract she was told to sign called a "Physician-Patient Arbitration Agreement."

The bottom line of the contract is that, once signed, the patient would promise that no lawsuits could be filed against that doctor (who happened to be an orthopedist). Instead, should a problem crop up, the patient would agree to "neutral arbitration" as described by the State of California. Then it spells out how that arbitration would be arranged.

The reader who sent it to me did not sign it. She asked whether signing it was a requirement before she could be seen by the doctor and learned that no, it was not.

In truth, I really don't blame doctors for trying to minimize the chance of being sued. Between the cost of malpractice insurance, the cost of defensive medicine, and the cost of frivolous lawsuits, these expensive, and more legal aspects of medical care have truly gotten out of hand. Arbitration may be a good way to minimize some of that cost.

However! (A BIG however!) -- I recommend you never sign one of these documents. First, your signature could not possibly improve the care you would receive, so there is absolutely no benefit to you from signing it. And second, because it's very likely that the reason a physician would ask you to sign it is because s/he, or perhaps someone else in his/her practice has lost a lawsuit before. These contracts are certainly not common, so why would a doctor even think to ask you to sign one?

There is a definite benefit to the doctor, but little or no benefit to the patient I can think of. Not that arbitration would be a bad idea. Depending on the circumstances, it could be quite positive. But you don't need to sign an agreement before treatment in order to choose arbitration later, if necessary.

Thanks to my anonymous reader for sending along a copy of this contract. If you find other strange or squirrely contracts in and amongst the paperwork you are given to sign when you visit a doctor, I would love to see a copy if you can send one along.

One other quick reminder -- when it comes to any paperwork you are given to sign before medical treatment, be informed before you give any consent.

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Comments
September 22, 2009 at 4:22 pm
(1) Ann says:

Thank you for this post. I will be sharing it. Some people, including myself, go limp mentally and emotionally when they see a white coat. They can be convinced to sign anything.

September 15, 2013 at 1:33 pm
(2) Rocky Odell says:

As I was reading the back part of my Medicare Advantage Plan, which I like, and I assume many have the same small print, if you don’t agree to it, you can be dropped from the Plan. Shame on them. It has to do with Injuries via any mode, the Health Plan gets First Subrogration, meaning you or your attorney doesn’t get anything until the medical costs incurred, are paid first. Shame on these First Subrogration words at the back pages of the Medicare Advantage Plans, placed at the end of an almost 300 page Contract. I plan to file a Medical Malpractice Suit against a supposed excellent hand surgeon, assuming I can find an attorney to take my case. The supposed Plastic Hand Surgeon received two not so nice ratings from me. Seems he needs to stick to faces and bodies. He has destroyed my right hand and living alone with no family close by, I need help. I can’t wait to see what an attorney says about those few words, that by the time we have read all about the Contract, we are too tired to get to the last pages.

Don’t ever get hand surgery from [name removed.] When I did research on him before my surgery, he had high ratings, all from Plastic Surgery Patients, who had face lifts or body sculpting, but NONE on Plastic Hand Surgery, that was until I sent my two cents in. He had not discussed placing three, three inch pins in two of my affected fingers. We had discussed possibly placing a “small pin” in my ring finger and I had authorized removal of the second joint in my right hand.

I have been an over 20 year RSD (Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy) patient, it is a horrible monster to live with. I live with pain 24 hours a day, 365 days a year and sleep is a fleeting experience. And a doctor who knows anything about this disease, knows not to immobilize any extremity post op and those pins were left in for six weeks, completely destroying my right hand. To learn about this disease, go to the http://www.rsds.org and learn about it. Our pain on a pain index scale is DOUBLE that of a Cancer Patient, however, I like to preface it with anyone who lives with any kind of pain that keeps them from functioning, sometimes the pain index scales can be disleading, but unfortunately are so true.

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