How to Avoid Liability Exposure with, "How Much Time Do I Have?"

Physician Talking to Patient“How much time do I have?” is a question a lot of physicians are asked. And, it is not only a difficult question to answer, but it is incredibly loaded and significant in the life of a patient and his or her family and may open the physician to liability exposure. Often, the answer to this question is repeated to family members, analyzed and can frame the rest of the patient’s perspective on life. That said, some ways are better than others ways of answering the question. Also, doing so in a sensitive, yet honest, manner can reduce your liability exposure.

A recent article in the New York Times, written from a physician perspective, discussed personal experience with this topic. It is written very thoughtfully, offers a few good take-away lessons and may help you avoid liability exposure. In the article the physician uses a range of time to answer the question. She says, “The average is about 6 to 12 months.” Then she adds, “…some people live longer, but some live less time, that it was difficult to predict…” which is nice, because it is honest yet sensitive. Physicians really don’t know how long an individual is going to live with a certain illness, and often when asked, they feel pressured to give an answer. Having a plan in mind of how to answer such a tricky and life-altering question ahead of time can ease the caregiver, and allow for a sensitive and truthful answer.

Just as you are sensitive to your patients and their needs, we here at are sensitive to our physicians’ needs. We understand that you work hard to minimize your liability exposure, that your time is limited, and that you want the best physician liability coverage at the best price –all with excellent customer service.

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