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Alternative Medical Practitioner Liability in California

Medical PractitionerJust because a practitioner of medicine is not a doctor, it does not mean that they will not be liable if they injure a patient. Alternative medical practitioners (AMPs), as most are called, still have a code of ethics and a standard of care to which they must adhere. If you have been injured by the negligence of an alternative health care professional, you may be entitled to compensation.

The Scope of Law in California

Unlike many other states in the U.S., California’s laws governing the practice of anything even resembling medicine are quite broad. The Business and Professions Code holds that anyone who performs a variety of ‘wellness’ related services (such as prescribing medication, diagnosing conditions or treating symptoms of any kind of illness) without a valid certificate of licensure and a disclaimer that clearly states they are not a physician is guilty of a civil offense, with potential fines up to $10,000. However, this does not immediately translate into a finding of liability. It may be persuasive evidence toward that conclusion, but it is not a probative statement of fact.

It is possible to be licensed to perform a specific non-traditional service in California, as many non-traditional fields are organizing in a way so as to be able to legally cover their members. For example, California has a state Acupuncture Board. It is generally sound practice for you as a client to investigate an AMP before consenting to be treated by the person - if you go to a professional who is operating without licensure or disclosure, it may be argued that you assumed the risk of being treated by such a person. This can have consequences, as California is a comparative negligence state, meaning that any recovery you obtain will be lessened by your percentage of fault.

Disclosure and Labeling

The standard of care for non-traditional health care professionals is roughly the same as for traditional medical professionals; if the actions of a reasonable professional of like age, experience and talent would be similar to the defendant’s, in the same situation, no negligence has occurred. However, AMPs are much more likely to have intricate requirements they must meet in order to arrive at that standard of care, and if they fail to fulfill one, it is more likely they will be judged wanting.

A prime example is labeling and disclosure. California law states that non-traditional practitioners must acquaint their patients with certain facts, includingt:

  • They are generally not licensed physicians;
  • The services they will provide are alternatives to state-licensed traditional medicine;
  • The type of services that will be performed;
  • The theory on which the treatment is based; and
  • The practitioner’s experience and schooling.

If this information is not provided to the patient, then, by definition, the practitioner has breached the standard of care since they have not conducted themselves as a similarly situated responsible practitioner would. A demonstrable breach of the standard of care is a major part of a medical malpractice case.

Seek Experienced Legal Assistance

Despite what people may believe, every medical practitioner must answer to the law for the safety of their patients. If you think you may have a case, it is a good idea to consult a knowledgeable medical malpractice lawyer. The San Jose medical malpractice attorneys at Corsiglia, McMahon & Allard, L.L.P. are happy to help answer your questions and suggest the right path going forward. Contact us today to set up an appointment. We serve San Jose, the Bay Area, and the counties of Monterey, Alameda, San Benito, Santa Clara and San Mateo.

Client Reviews
My experience with Attorney Brad Corsiglia during my recent medical malpractice case was nothing short of amazing given the very stressful circumstances. I was fortunate to find Brad highly recommended from a mutual contact and from the very beginning of the process, Brad was truly engaged and knowledgeable in understanding my case and providing input on what avenues were available to me. Michelle M.