Skip to comments.Risk Management Advice to Physicians and their Insurers: Don’t Borrow Trouble
Posted on 01/17/2013 11:23:11 AM PST by Stanwood_Dave
Since retiring and leaving Law Enforcement, I have been active in Risk Management consulting, a field that has grown rapidly throughout every industry over the past 20 years. Some of the companies I have consulted to for risk management include IBM, Gates Lear jet, National Semiconductor, and Pinkerton International Protection Services.
One of the best games in town is litigation, and litigating against physicians is even more popular than suing gun manufacturers. Physicians and their malpractice insurance carriers are well aware that litigators are constantly looking for new opportunities to sue. Lets talk about one of those new areas of exposure.
Nowadays, many physicians and other health care providers are engaging in the very risky, well intentioned, but naive and politically inspired business of asking their patients about ownership, maintenance and storage of firearms in the home. Some could argue that this is a boundary violation, and it probably is, but there is another very valid reason why these professionals should NOT engage in this practice -- MASSIVE LIABILITY.
Physicians are licensed and certified in the practice of medicine, the treatment of illnesses and injuries, and in preventative activities. They may advise or answer questions about those issues. However, when physicians give advice about firearms safety in the home, without certification in that field, and without physically INSPECTING that particular home and those particular firearms, they are functioning outside the practice of medicine. Furthermore, if they fail to review the gamut of safety issues in the home, such as those relating to electricity, drains, disposals, compactors, garage doors, driveway safety, pool safety, pool fence codes and special locks for pool gates, auto safety, gas, broken glass, stored cleaning chemicals, buckets, toilets, sharp objects, garden tools, home tools, power tools, lawnmowers, lawn chemicals, scissors, needles, forks, knives, and on and on, well, you get the drift. A litigator could easily accuse that physician of being NEGLIGENT for not covering whichever one of those things that ultimately led to the death or injury of a child or any one in the family or even a visitor to the patients home.
To engage in Home Safety Counseling without Certification, license or formal training in Risk Management and to concentrate on one small politically correct area, i.e., firearms to the neglect of ALL of the other safety issues in the modern home, is to invite a lawsuit because the safety counselor Knew, Could have known or SHOULD have known that there were other dangers to the occupants of that house more immediate than firearms. Things like swimming pools, buckets of water, and chemicals in homes are involved in the death or injury of many more children than accidental firearms discharge [ Source: CDC.] Firearms are a statistically small, nearly negligible fraction of the items involved in home injuries. Physicians SHOULD know that. So, why all of a sudden do some physicians consider themselves to be firearms safety experts? Where is their concern for all the other safety issues that they DON'T cover with their patients?
Once physicians start down this path of home safety counseling, they are completely on their own. A review of their medical malpractice insurance will reveal that if they engage in an activity for which they are not certified, the carrier will not cover them if (or when) they get sued.
Consider a physician asking the following questions of his or her malpractice insurance carrier:
1. One of my patients is suing me for NOT warning them that furniture polish was poisonous and their child drank it and died. I only warned them about firearms, drugs and alcohol. Am I covered for counseling patients about firearms safety while not mentioning and giving preventative advice about all the other dangers in the home, and doing so without formal training or certification in any aspect of home safety risk management?
You know their answer.
2. How much training and certification do I need to become a Home Safety Expert Doctor?
They will tell you that you are either a pediatrician or you are the National Safety Council. But, you don't have certification to do the National Safety Councils job for them.
Homeowners and parents are civilly or criminally responsible for the safety or lack thereof in their homes. My advice to physicians is to not borrow trouble by presuming to be able to dispense safety advice outside your area of expertise: the practice of medicine. Your insurance carrier will love you if you simply treat injuries and illnesses, dispense advice on how to care for sick or injured persons, manage sanitation problems and try to prevent disease, but stay out of the Risk Management business unless you are trained and certified to do it.
Joe Horn 6th Mesa Risk Management, Los Angeles County Sheriffs Department, Retired
by Joe Horn
Last time (Part I) we discussed:
The Risk Management issues involved in counseling patients about firearms home safety, and the liability issues involved with lack of certification and training of Physicians in Home Safety or Firearms Safety.
Now we'll discuss:
The very serious issues involving the lawful possession and use of firearms in the home, and the danger and liabilities associated with advising patients to severely encumber the firearm(s) with locked storage, or advising the patient to remove them entirely.
Patient X is told by Doctor Y to remove or lock up a firearm so it is not accessible. Patient X, does as counseled and has no firearm available at close-hand. Subsequently, patient is then the victim of a home invasion and calls 911, but the police are buried in calls and dont arrive for 20 minutes during which time Patient X is raped, robbed and murdered. Anyone can see the liability issue here, particularly Risk Management specialists and liability insurance carriers.
Its just a matter of when and not if this will happen, God forbid, but it will - if a home invasion takes place and Patient X takes Doctor Y's advice.
Now, imagine what follows this horrendous event. Who is to blame? The perpetrator is long gone, and even so, the Plaintiffs litigator will state that the perpetrator could have been neutralized by the appropriate defensive use of a firearm, which was no longer available to the deceased/injured because he/she followed a Physicians advice to render him/herself defenseless against violent crime.
The Litigator will further argue that the Physician Knew, Could have known, Should have known that removing a firearm from use for home defense would result in harm to the patient if and when a crime was committed against the patient in the home.
Physicians are already under incredible pressure from Liability and Malpractice carriers to limit their exposure, and Malpractice rates are staggeringly high. So, why borrow trouble?
If one acknowledges the already dangerous general liability of home safety counseling and then adds the very risky practice of advising patients to disarm themselves in the face of the reality of violent crime daily perpetrated against home owners and apartment tenants, it is apparent that the Physician is placing him/herself in a very risky position for suit.
It is my strong recommendation to Malpractice Carriers and those Physicians they insure to strictly avoid this high risk practice and reserve counseling for the area of expertise in which they are certified: Medicine. In my professional opinion, this is an emotionally charged political issue that Physicians and their Carriers should not be manipulated for whatever well-intentioned reason into taking the risk, which is considerable......
Physicians in doubt of the veracity of what Ive said are encouraged to call their carriers and ask them what they currently cover, and to ask if this new counseling policy is covered under the existing policy. We already know what they will say: Dont borrow trouble.
Joe Horn, Sixth Mesa Risk Management, Los Angeles County Sheriffs Department, Retired. (c) 2000 Permission is granted to reproduce this article if left intact and complete. firstname.lastname@example.org
Part One: Qualifications I affirm that I am certified to offer (Name of Patient)_______________________________________________, herineafter referred to as the Patient, qualified advice about firearms safety in the home, having received: Specify Course(s) of Study:_____________________________ from: Specify Institution(s):__________________________________ on: Specify Course Completion Date(s):______________________________________________________________________________________________________________ resulting in: Specify Accreditation(s), Certification(s), License(s) etc.:______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
cover lawsuits resulting from neglect, lack of qualification, etc.
Insurance Carrier name, address and policy number insuring me for firearms safety expertise: __________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
I further warrant that, should the Patient follow my firearm safety counseling and remove from the home and/or disable firearms with trigger locks or other mechanisms, and if the patient or a family member, friend or visitor is subsequently injured or killed as a result of said removal or disabling, that my malpractice insurance and/or personal assets will cover all actual and punitive damages resulting from a lawsuit initiated by the patient, the patient's legal representative, or the patient's survivors.
Signature of attesting physician and date:__________________________________________/___/20___
Name of attesting physician (please print):__________________________________________/___/20___
Signature of patient and date:__________________________________________/___/20___
Name of patient (please print):___________________________________________
Patient: Indicate if physician REFUSED TO SIGN. Have physician place a copy in your chart/medical record.
Had an appointment yesterday with my primary care doc.
He noted that my blood pressure was higher than on any previous visit. I explained: I had been listening to obama’s speech just prior to the appt. He asked what he was talking about, to which I replied “gun control”. He wisely made no further comment.
My doc has been asking about gun ownership for years.
Got to make copies.
The only physicians that will waste their time asking patients about guns are the stupid Lefty academic physicians. Most doctors hate 0-care, are too busy seeing patients, and are not likley to become a government snitch.
Instead, I think that many conservative patients will avoid seeking medical attention at all costs. Some conservatives will seek cash only practice physicians that do not use electonic records.
I had one doc ask in the early ‘80s. None since. I’ll never answer in the future; and make that guy’s economic life heck by ensuring no gun owner ever goes there again.
Hey; if your doc asks about guns, just picket his practice: “This Doctor does not respect your 2nd Amendment and Privacy Rights.” Call all the pressitudes to come by for an interview.
I met with my heart doc a couple days ago and no such questions were asked.
I will see my primary care doc later today. I am not sure of exactly what I will say when asked, but I sure didn’t need the damn stress of having to even think about this garbage.
My doc asks about gun ownership almost every time I come in. Wants to know what I own and how many. He’s just trying to make sure he still owns more guns than I do.
You guys need to find better doctors.
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