How liable am I if a drug I prescribe leads to a severe unpredicted adverse reaction? If the adverse reaction occurs in 7% of patients, am I more liable if I don’t issue a warning than if I do? What if the adverse reaction has been seen in only a couple of patients, but it is so severe that it leads to permanent disability? Is there any way to protect myself from liability?
—Felix N. Chien, DO, Newport Beach, Calif.
Liability is difficult to anticipate, since it depends on predicting whether a jury would find that in retrospect, the physician failed to get informed consent by describing the probable risks, even remote risks if they are severe. In practice, these cases turn on whether the clinician can show that he considered the risks and benefits, explained them to the patient, and monitored for the side effects. The most effective risk-management strategy may be to hand the patient a printed sheet outlining the risks and benefits, similar to those pharmacists use, and to go over the most important of them verbally.
—David S. Starr, MD, JD (106-13)