By Alex Stein
Four days ago, the Supreme Court of South Dakota delivered an important decision on when a physician’s failure to refer a patient to another doctor constitutes malpractice. St. John v. Peterson, — N.W.2d —- (S.D. 2015), 2015 WL 3505401. This decision hides in the Court’s rulings on the admissibility of evidence, and so it’s important to give it the publicity it deserves.
The Court decided—correctly, in my opinion—that a physician has a duty to refer her patient to another doctor when she is not competent to carry out the procedure the patient needs or when the referral is part of the customary practices and protocols followed by her peers. The availability of other, more experienced, better skilled and better performing doctors is not a good reason in and of itself for imposing a referral obligation on the physician.
The Court had very good reasons for making that decision. Read More