Given the rising cost of healthcare and insurance, it’s perhaps not surprising that more and more people are turning to alternative medicine for minor and even major illnesses. However, there are serious consequences to consider, and juries are starting to hold practitioners liable for the aftermath. In a case reported by the Los Angeles Times earlier this month, an alternative medicine practitioner by the name of Robert Young was held liable for advising a cancer patient to forgo traditional medical care. The plaintiff in the case was awarded $105 million, more than double what she was seeking. The woman now has stage 4 cancer, and doctors have estimated that she has only three or four years left to live.
Negligence and Fraud
In her lawsuit, the plaintiff argued that Mr. Young’s practice was negligent and fraudulent. The jury obviously agreed after hearing a considerable amount of evidence, spending only three hours in deliberation. The plaintiff’s attorney hopes that the “cure-all cancer industry” will take notice, and stop taking advantage of desperate people overwhelmed with a life-threatening illness.
Practicing Medicine without a License
The award came at the conclusion of the plaintiff’s civil trial, which concluded 16 months after a criminal prosecution. In the criminal case, Mr. Young went to jail for a few months after having been found guilty of practicing medicine without a license. As part of his agreement to end the criminal prosecution, Mr. Young had to publicly admit that he was not a medical doctor or trained scientist.
The Young case highlights the grave consequences of following the advice of non-medical health practitioners. It’s important to keep in mind, however, that there are some licensed medical doctors who advocate alternative, non-medical treatments. These doctors may recommend alternative remedies in lieu of or in addition to standard treatment.
For these doctors, use of alternative treatments may expose them to medical malpractice in the event that the patient suffers harm. By prescribing alternative medicines or treatments, the doctor may be found liable for injuries for the following reasons:
- The doctor failed to warn the patient of the inherent dangers and potential risks associated with the treatment, both known and unknown;
- The doctor failed to warn the patient of the consequences of forgoing standard medical treatment;
- The doctor prescribed a therapy outside the typical standard of care;
- The doctor sold a supplement that caused harm to the patient.
A doctor may even be liable if the patient initiated the alternative treatment on her own if the doctor was aware of the treatment and failed to warn the patient or account for how it may interact with standard treatments or medicines.
Contact an Atlanta Area Medical Malpractice Attorney
If you’ve suffered harm as the result of alternative medicine, you may have a claim for negligence. Doctors and non-medical health practitioners should be held accountable when the treatment they recommend is ineffective and causes further harm to your health. You put your health is someone else’s hands – don’t let a simple mistake cost you your future.
The attorneys at Slappey & Sadd help victims of medical malpractice across the state of Georgia. If you’d like to schedule a free consultation with one of our lawyers, send us an email or call us at 888-474-9616.