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Rules in Medical and Dental Malpractice

The State of the Art Rule

This means the doctor has to be up-to-date and in step with modern medicine or dentistry. For example, we know today that lumpectomy (non-disfiguring removal of individual lumps) and simple mastectomy pr

oduce better results in most cases of breast cancer than the disfiguring, disabling radical mastectomy that was popular with breast surgeons for many years. Today, a doctor who rushes in and does radical breast surgery, without considering conservative treatment, is not up to the state of the art and is guilty of malpractice.

In a New York case, a 19 year-old girl had been treated with radioactive cobalt for Hodgkin’s disease (cancer of the lymph nodes). The cobalt treatments were successful, and she could have lived a normal life, except for susceptibility to a severe reaction if she were ever given a blood transfusion. One day the hospital mistakenly gave her a transfusion that killed her.

At just about that time, it was discovered that the transfusion reaction could have been prevented by irradiating the blood (exposing it to radiation). When her family brought suit, the case hinged upon whether using irradiated blood was the “state of the art” at the time she died. If it had happened two or three years earlier, it would not have been, and there would not have been any malpractice. If it had happened two or three years later, when irradiating blood had been written up in all the medical journals, it would have been a clear-cut case of medical malpractice. The result? The lawyers finally compromised.

The Rule Is: No one can tell what medical or dental advances will be made next year or even tomorrow. A doctor only needs to practice according to the state of the art today. Even if new developments have been reported in the news, he cannot be criticized for failure to utilize them until they are officially recognized and accepted by the medical or dental profession.

The School of Thought Rule

A doctor can only be judged by the standards of his school of thought. A podiatrist (foot doctor) cannot be held to the standard of an orthopaedic surgeon. An otolaryngologist (ear, nose, and throat specialist) need not be an expert in dentistry. The schools of thought are:

Allopathy (M.D.) – Medical Doctors.
Osteopathy (D.O.) – Osteopaths used to be bone manipulators, but most osteopaths now receive the same training as M.D.’s.
Homeopathy - Homeopaths believe in giving very small doses of drugs. There are few of them practicing. Most homeopaths have become M.D.’s or D.O.’s.
Podiatry (D.P.M.) – Podiatrists work below the ankle and are recognized experts in foot disorders.
Dentistry (D.D.S. or D.M.D.) – Doctor of Dental Surgery or Doctor of Dental Medicine indicate the degree awarded upon graduation from dental school to become a general dentist. There is no difference between the two degrees; dentists who have a D.M.D. or D.D.S. have the same education.
Chiropractic (D.C.) – Chiropractors believe that diseases are caused by pressure on the nerve roots and manipulate the spine. They are licensed to take and read x-rays.
Holistic Healing – Drugless healers who treat the body as a whole and not the disease, usually by diets and nutrition.
Faith Healing – Any one who tells you that you can be cured by faith or belief alone.

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