Medical students should not be liable for malpractice

Should medical students receive immunity from malpractice liability?

That’s an interesting question that’s raised in a bill from Arizona.

According to the Arizona Daily Sun,

State lawmakers are moving to keep patients injured by medical students from being able to sue them.

But proponents said that won’t leave victims without recourse.

SB1429, awaiting full Senate action, would spell out that students are not liable for malpractice if they are under the supervision of a licensed health care professional. The only way a student could be sued would be if a patient could prove by clear and convincing evidence that the student acted with gross negligence.

Kelsey Lundy, lobbyist for Midwestern University, said that, at one time, students were never named in lawsuits. But she said her school, which trains osteopaths, has had four of these suits in the last five years.

Anything that a medical student does is supervised and countersigned by a physician — whether it’s an intern, resident or attending doctor. If malpractice occurred, legal liability would fall upon the doctor who signed the order and the hospital where the event took place.

Suing a medical student — even if they’re dropped from the case, as many are — incurs considerable cost to the medical school, which must pay tens of thousand of dollars in legal fees in these instances.

And furthermore, merely being involved in a malpractice suit will follow the medical student, and potentially make it more difficult to find a job, or more expensive to obtain malpractice insurance.

At the osteopathic school cited in the article, which endured several such medical student lawsuits, I also wonder whether this will have a detrimental affect on education. Would the school, for instance, keep a tighter leash on its students, increasing supervision and potentially impede learning?

Injured patients do not benefit from suing medical students.  If negligence occurs, a supervising physician will answer the charges, and participate in the malpractice process.

Leave medical students alone, and exempt them from medical malpractice lawsuits.

 is an internal medicine physician and on the Board of Contributors at USA Today.  He is founder and editor of KevinMD.com, also on FacebookTwitterGoogle+, and LinkedIn.

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