According to Slate, the New York State Legislature may be on the verge of passing a bill that would provide physicians more legal cover in instances where they have acted negligently. Currently, a doctor is considered negligent if they act in a manner that “deviates from accepted norms of practice in the medical community.” Recently, a bill was unanimously passed by both houses of the New York State Legislature that prohibits the state’s Office of Professional Medical Conduct from investigating claims of medical misconduct where the negligence in question took place during the course of a treatment that is not universally accepted by the medical profession. The issue raised by Slate, is that few medical practices are “universally accepted” in medicine. Consequently, this bill would effectively be protecting doctors who practice non-universally accepted treatments from being disciplined. Slate’s Brian Palmer believes the bill is an attempt to promote acceptance of chronic Lyme disease.
“Chronic” Lyme disease is believed by many doctors to be a fictitious ailment. In the vast majority of cases where Lyme disease “persists” after treatment, there is no evidence that the sick patient was ever infected with Borrelia burdorferi; the Lyme disease-causing bacterium carried by some deer ticks. Doctors who believe in Chronic Lyme disease tend to prescribe long-term intravenous antibiotic therapy. This therapy has been known to cause serious side effects and can lead to the development of dangerous antibiotic-resistance bacteria. The overwhelming majority of physicians disagree with intravenous antibiotic therapy as a path of treatment and have trouble believing that Chronic Lyme disease actually exists. Due to the fact that Chronic Lyme disease is not universally accepted—and thus subsequent treatments are not universally accepted–should this new bill become law, it would prevent New York’s Office of Professional Medical Conduct from investigating claims where a doctor’s negligence led to a patient’s injury. Essentially, the passage of this bill could result in doctors not being held legally accountable for their actions in many instances where they’re unnecessarily causing their patients physical harm.
Despite the bill being ethically questionable, it won’t have an impact on an injured patient’s ability to collect compensation for a doctor’s medical negligence. While the New York State Office of Professional Medical Conduct investigates and levels charges against doctors for egregious negligence or criminal behavior, they play no role in medical malpractice lawsuits. In order to have a valid lawsuit, an injured patient needs to show that their doctors acted negligently which subsequently led to their injury and monetary damages. Patients who have suffered an injury due to a doctor’s negligence, should ignore the new bill regarding deviation from the accepted standard of care and contact an attorney with experience in medical malpractice cases at their earliest convenience.