Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Patient Advocacy - What doctors can learn from lawyers

Mr Darius Khambata, the Advocate General of Maharashtra, released our new book, Patient Advocacy – Giving Voice to the Patient.  He eloquently discussed ( without using powerpoint !) the role patient advocates can play in reducing cases filed against doctors for perceived negligence. Medicine is a complex biological science and healing is unpredictable. Not every adverse outcome is a result of medical negligence but it’s become a knee-jerk reflex  now to blame the doctor for negligence every time a complication occurs. Mr Khambata explained that not only do advocates protect  patients from harm, when an unforeseen and unavoidable  medical accident does occur ( as it inevitably will , in a small percentage of cases), they can reassure the patient that this was not because of a careless or incompetent doctor.

He spoke at length about how court verdicts which award huge damages to patients can lead to the epidemic of defensive medicine which we are now seeing in the US – and hoped that we have the wisdom to steer clear of this hazard which leads to overtesting, overtreatment and expensive avoidable care.

He also pointed out that while technology is moving towards convergence, so that a single device can serve as computer, music player, diary , voice recorder, monitor and so on, the medical profession seems to be on the path of divergence, as a result of which specialists know a lot about technical minutiae, but precious little about the patient who has the disease. Family physicians can serve as effective patient advocates to help the patient make the most of modern medicine’s dazzling array of resources, which are spread all over the place, each in its own silo.

He pointed out that lawyers and doctors have a lot in common, and can learn a lot from each other. Lawyers can learn how to heal conflicts from doctors; while doctors can learn how to stand up and advocate for their patients from lawyers !

Patient advocates serve a role similar to what an amicus curae does  in the court.  Just like an amicus helps the judge to find the truth, a patient advocate can help the doctor to get better sooner !

You can read the book, Patient Advocacy – Giving Voice to Patients free online at

Please share this with your friends as well !


  1. Good PPT, patients have to be taken good care when they are in hospital.

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