Monday, May 23, 2011

Should Studying Law Be Mandatory for Physicians?

My understanding is that medical school is supposed to prepare medical students to be good doctors.  That has translated to teaching basic sciences, clinical sciences and clinical applications of the knowledge.  Also included is exposure to the healthcare system and its delivery, some medico-legal aspects, and medical ethics.  That indeed has prepared generations of fine physicians to the challenges of clinical medicine, where the challenges Time has changed.  The knowledge and skills taught in medical school do not give the prospective physician a clue as to many real challenges.  Not the challenges that will intrigue the clinical abilities, but challenges that will threaten the career entirely.  The environment of practicing medicine in the US is morbidly so highly litigated, that the legal aspects are making a very significant part of the mental energy, time and financial resources of physicians and their practices.  I dare say that the MD or DO degree alone is not sufficient to be a good doctor.  A good doctor has to be able to survive legally against many odds.  I believe that extensive exposure to the law, even with a modified JD degree, would be the least that is necessary to bring some sanity.  A disadvantage is that you will have doctors who know some of the law and may over-estimate their knowledge and legal capabilities, and get themselves in trouble.  But, I think there will be a big advantage in knowing the basics, to be able to navigate some of the witch-hunts against doctors.  Every doctor needs to learn law.  But, in case their are legal issues, still retaining counsel is absolutely necessary.  But, then, the physician will be a well-informed customer.

Another potential shortcoming is if the curriculum is designed to program the future physician to promote the current miserable state of affairs without actually preparing them for the real dangers (bad medical staff bylaws, lack of constitutional rights for physicians, etc).  Therefore, the course needs to be carefully designed to prepare the student to practice in the jungle of healthcare in the US, and to give a strong sense as to which areas need reform.

1 comment:

  1. Shammedoc,

    The law must be studied by physicians, but not simply as one would study medicine but as one would investigate a crime.