When a medical doctor or healthcare provider falls short of meeting the acceptable standards of medical practice and the patient suffers an injury as a result, a medical malpractice claim may be filed. The claim may be brought to court by the patient and must confirm certain tort negligence elements in order to demonstrate proof of medical malpractice. But what about naturopathic doctors – can they be sued for medical malpractice?

What is naturopathic medicine?

Neuropathic medicine, as defined by the American Association of Neuropathic Physicians takes a proactive, holistic prevention approach that includes a comprehensive diagnosis and treatment of the patient. It is a form of alternative medicine that focuses on enhancing the natural resources in the body, such as the immune system, along with natural solutions such as herbal supplements, to help the body heal itself. It also employs other non-traditional treatments toward improving an individual’s health.

Naturopathic physicians pinpoint specific dysfunctions or weaknesses in their patients and develop a personalized treatment plan for the patient. These physicians seek to find symptoms that are characteristic to the patient rather than common symptoms associated with a disease.

What naturopathic doctors are able to do presently varies on a state-by-state basis. In the District of Columbia and 20 states, these doctors are permitted to write out certain prescriptions and order certain medical tests, such as x-rays and blood tests. In the other parts of the country they are restricted to operating as naturopaths, providing nonprescription treatments and health advice to patients.

Suing a naturopath doctor

Medical practitioners of all types have a responsibility to deliver attentive and thorough care to their patients. When these medical professionals fall short as a result of negligence or another reason, victims can file a medical malpractice lawsuit. This also holds true for naturopathic doctors.

Often juries are not as sympathetic to naturopaths as they are to traditional medical doctors when something goes wrong.

With any medical malpractice case, a plaintiff must be able to demonstrate that the defendant owed a duty to the plaintiff and that the defendant (the medical provider) violated that duty. The plaintiff must also show that the breach of this duty led to injury as a proximate cause, and that as a result, the plaintiff sustained actual damages. When embarking upon medical malpractice litigation, it is important for the plaintiff (the injured party) to determine the duty of the healthcare provider. This also includes the duty of a naturopathic healthcare provider.

Each medical discipline has its own established standards of care. Because of this, plaintiffs seeking to sue a naturopathic doctor for medical malpractice need to utilize the standards established in the specific discipline itself. A naturopathic doctor may also be subject to a med mal lawsuit if that doctor fails to refer a patient for other necessary care or attempts to provide treatment to a patient for a condition that is beyond his or her knowledge and expertise.

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