Clinical Orthopaedics and Related Research
Volume 467, Number 2 / February, 2009;
Pages 427-433
By: Jeffrey Segal, MD, JD, FACS and Michael Sacopulos, JD

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The documents patients sign on admission to a medical practice can constitute a legal contract. Medical practices around the country are attempting to use these documents as a prospective defense against medical malpractice claims. Protective contractual provisions are often attacked on grounds that they are legally void as a result of unconscionability. Widespread use of arbitration clauses have been met with mixed success. Arbitration clauses that limit damages available in medical negligence cases have been stricken in some states as having provisions that impose excessive entry costs on a patient starting the arbitration process. Other provisions relating to prequalification requirements for expert witnesses are now being used with increasing frequency. Clauses have even been placed in patient contracts that address cyber postings of adverse claims against physicians. Prospective patient contracts may be an effective means to limit exposure to medical malpractice lawsuits and to minimize defamatory cyber postings.