Should negligence lawsuits be allowed to go this far?

April 1, 2008

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court is allowing a case to go forward against an internist whose patient hit and killed a 10-year-old boy in a car crash.

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court is allowing a case to go forward against an internist whose patient hit and killed a 10-year-old boy in a car crash. The boy's mother alleges that the internist acted negligently when he prescribed several medications to the patient without warning him about potential side effects that could impair his ability to drive.

The ruling suggests that "doctors are liable not just to patients but also anyone else 'foreseeably' put at risk when doctors fail to warn patients about potential side effects of drugs they prescribe," reported American Medical News (2/4/2008). The decision has raised concerns among doctors, who note that expanding physician liability will add time and expense to medical care as more effort is needed to document extensive conversations about side effects. Two dissenting justices agreed, one of whom wrote: "Gone would be the physicians' ability to exercise independent professional judgment. . . The physician would be forever looking over his shoulder."

The case, Lyn-Ann Coombes v Roland J. Florio, MD, is headed to trial in a lower court.