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Did You Have a Contract With Your Doctor?

What if a doctor says, “I’ll admit I promised my patient a good result, and it didn’t turn out that way, but I defy you to show that I did anything wrong.”  Maybe you do not have to.  It is good medical practice and dental practice for doctor

s to give what is called a prognosis, which means an educated

guess.  They will tell patients that everything will be all right, or that they will recover, or predict the outcome of disease.  It is a time-honored tradition to make the patient feel better, and it is not binding on the doctor.

The prognosis is not a guarantee of good results.  The courts have ruled that when a doctor accepts you as a patient, he only undertakes to treat you, not to cure you or produce any specific result.  In fact, the medical profession considered that, since no one can predict the outcome of an illness with any degree of certainty, any such guarantee is unethical.  Most good doctors avoid saying anything that could be taken as a specific promise or guarantee of results and will rarely give you more than a general idea of what to expect.

There is an exception, however, when the doctor persuades you to submit to some treatment on the express promise that he will produce a certain result.  This is especially true when the treatment is something you really did not need and would not have submitted to but for the doctor’s specific promise.  In other words, you may have reason to sue for Breach of Contract if you did something, or submitted to some unnecessary treatment or surgery, just because you relied on the doctor’s promise of good results.  The doctor’s promise does not have to be spelled out or put in writing.  You would have to show that you acted in reliance on the doctor’s explicit promise of a good result.

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