"Defensive wording" in medical guidelines

Medical Economics discusses the use of clinical guidelines in malpractice litigation. One interesting point is raised regarding whether new guidelines are being affected by the current malpractice atmosphere:

. . . as trial lawyers are using guidelines more in court, the organizations writing them are changing their motives. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, for example, has recently come under fire from plaintiffs’ lawyers . . . for issuing guidelines that seem more protective of doctors than patients. The College’s guidelines, they say, appear designed to shield doctors from liability rather than to improve care . . .

. . . each time an organization’s guideline writers see a plaintiffs’ attorney win a case by proving that a doctor didn’t follow one of their guidelines, they may simply weaken the guideline. . . guidelines of an earlier era might have stated, “In this situation, the doctor should do the following . . . .” Now, the guidelines are written much more defensively, carefully avoiding prescriptive language. They are worded to say something like, “In this situation, the doctor might consider doing the following . . . . “

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