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The Requirements of Establishing a Doctor-Patient Relationship

Published on Jan 21, 2021 at 3:42 pm in Medical Malpractice.


One of the biggest aspects of a successful medical malpractice claim is establishing a doctor-patient relationship existed between the doctor and the patient that they injured. While it might seem obvious that if the injury occurred, then a doctor-patient relationship existed, that’s not always the case. A medical malpractice lawyer will need to establish that this relationship existed within the parameters of the requirements of the law.

If you’re filing a med mal claim in Arkansas, you could use the help of an attorney. One of our lawyers from McMath Woods P.A. can guide you through the legal process and ensure that your rights are protected. With our help, you can feel confident in your case and get the compensation that you deserve.

How A Doctor-Patient Relationship Is Established

The doctor-patient relationship is vital to a med mal case because it shows that the doctor had a legal obligation to treat the patient within the standard of care that any other doctor would show in a similar situation. This issue might seem straight-forward, but it can become quite complicated when looking at the specifics of when a doctor is and isn’t responsible for the care of a patient.

In order for a relationship to be established, the doctor must first consent to treating the patient. An article in the AMA Journal of Ethics explains the different scenarios where a doctor can and cannot refuse to treat a patient, and when a doctor-patient relationship is established.

The article states that as a general rule, a doctor is not obligated to treat any patient they do not choose to treat. And as such, the main requirement to establish a doctor-patient relationship is that the doctor takes action or agrees to take action in a patient’s case by examining, diagnosing, or treating them.

There are some more specific scenarios to look into to see if there is a relationship or not. If a doctor does not have a history of treating a patient, then they are not obligated to consent to treating them. If a doctor does have a history of treating a patient, but they are asking for treatment outside of the doctor’s practice, then they are not obligated to agree to treat the patient.

However, if the doctor has treated the patient before for a condition, and their condition worsens, then the doctor should treat the patient in their best ability before sending them to a specialist or emergency care unit. But even still, the doctor-patient relationship might not be completely established. To best understand if a relationship was legally established, a medical malpractice lawyer can help and answer all of your questions.

Arkansas Legal Definition of Doctor-Patient Relationship

Even though the above information applies for most doctors, it’s also important to look into the state laws about requirements to establish a doctor-patient relationship. In our state, the Arkansas State Medical Board oversees those requirements. According to that code, there are specific requirements to establish that relationship, which are:

  • The doctor performed a physical and acquired the patient’s health history to best diagnose and treat them.
  • Treatment was provided by a physician who has an on-going relationship to the patient via a referral, follow-up care, and medication prescriptions.
  • The doctor was on-call during the patient’s treatment.

There are some exceptions to this rule, like if a doctor provides advice to no patient in particular. To best understand if a doctor-patient relationship was adequately established before a medical error occurred, you should hire a medical malpractice lawyer who has experience determining who was at fault for the error.

Contact McMath Woods P.A. for Legal Help

Medical malpractice claims can be complex and confusing. When you’re already dealing with an illness or injury and the further injury you suffered from your doctor’s negligence, you might have trouble handling a legal claim on top of it all. That’s where a med mal attorney from McMath Woods P.A. can help.

We will look into your claim and use state regulations to determine if a doctor-patient relationship existed, and if it did, whether or not your doctor was negligent in your care. We will fight to get you the justice you deserve for your injuries so that you can heal physically, emotionally, and financially. The sooner you reach out, the sooner we can get started on getting you back on your feet. Contact us today.

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