Physician Assistant Malpractice 101

Graphic of a Physician Assistant with Text-
Physician Assistant Medical Malpractice

Physician Assistant Malpractice-As medical physicians and hospitals in Arizona attempt to augment profits, they are utilizing “mid-level practitioners” more and more to help treat patients and bill for the services as if the medical physician performed the treatment. One mid-level practitioner is a Physician Assistant, or “PA.” A PA is a licensed professional who has less medical education and training than a doctor but can still diagnose, treat, and prescribe most medications. Having a Physician Assistant in a medical practice allows doctors to treat more patients daily which in turn increases billable services. At times this actually stresses the medical practice support staff and mistakes happen. These mistakes can cause serious, life-threatening injury, and even death. A PA can be sued and held responsible for your injury plus the supervising physician can also be sued for possible negligence. This article focuses on some of the common questions regarding physician assistant malpractice.

Can Physician Assistants Open A Medical Practice and Work on Their Own?

No. Physician Assistants are required under Arizona law to practice under the control of a licensed medical physician. In certain clinical settings, a licensed medical doctor doesn’t need to be physically present in the same building as the Physician Assistant who is providing medical care to you. However, the PA must be in frequent contact with a supervising licensed medical doctor about how the entire case is progressing including but not limited to signing off on all exams, reexams, medication, medical referrals and any other medical services that are required like X-rays, MRIs or other testing.

Picture of Physician Assistant with Text What Types Of Malpractice Can A PA Commit?
Types Of Malpractice-Physicians Assistant

What Type of Malpractice Can a Physician Assistant Commit?

Because they have less education, training, and (often) experience, physician assistants are more prone to make errors that a doctor would not have otherwise made. These types of negligence can include:

  • Medical errors
  • Failure to treat
  • Failure to obtain an appropriate medical history
  • Providing the wrong diagnosis
  • Failure to diagnose a medical condition
  • Delay in diagnosing a medical condition
  • Prescribing medication they are not allowed to prescribe

Who Would One Sue to Protect My Legal Rights When a PA Commits Medical Malpractice?

  • The PA who injured you.
  • The supervising medical doctor of the Physician Assistant.
  • The hospital, medical practice/clinic who utilized the PA.

In Arizona, the supervising physician is liable for injuries caused by a Physician Assistant. The supervising medical doctor is responsible for all actions taken by the PA. If the PA injures you, the supervising physician is liable for the acts of negligence.

Whatever medical entity that employed the Physician Assistant is typically liable for injury or harm the PA caused. Current Arizona Law dictates that the medical entities like a hospital, emergency room, medical practice/clinic are vicariously liable for the PA. Furthermore, Arizona law also dictates, that if a licensed medical employee causes injury, the medical physician and/or the medical entity employer is responsible for the acts of the employee who is providing medical care within the scope of their employment.

Graphic stating Frequently Asked Questions Physician Assistant Malpractice

Frequently Asked Questions Physician Assistant Malpractice

Does a physician assistant need malpractice insurance?

All clinically practicing PAs should carry professional liability coverage, often called malpractice insurance. This insurance covers your exposure to liability arising from your profession, including allegations of malpractice.

Can you sue a physician assistant?

Yes. It’s a common misconception that “PAs don’t get sued because they are the physician’s responsibility.” Actually, there are three facts of medicine and law that govern who will be sued: PAs, though supervised by physicians, can and do make errors for which their supervising physicians are not responsible.

Does the employment of physician assistants and nurse practitioners increase liability?

Abstract and Figures. We assessed whether physician assistant (PA) and nurse practitioner (NP) utilization increases liability. … Significant differences were found in liability reports among doctors, PAs and APNs. Physicians made, on average, malpractice payments twice that of Physician Assistant

What is the difference between a doctor and a physician’s assistant?

The main difference between a doctor and a physician assistant is that a PA works under the supervision of a doctor, whereas a doctor has full responsibility for a clinical situation. Both are qualified medical professionals, and very much work in collaboration with one another.

Is a physician assistant above a nurse practitioner?

PAs are licensed medical professionals who may work independently of the lead physician, while Nurse Practitioners are well trained, but not necessarily licensed caregivers, who must work under the close supervision of the attending doctor.

What is the role of a physician assistant?

PAs are medical professionals who diagnose illness, develop and manage treatment plans, prescribe medications, and often serve as a patient’s principal healthcare provider. With thousands of hours of medical training, PAs are versatile and collaborative. A PA’s medical education and training are rigorous.

Can PA’s perform surgery?

A PA may perform surgical procedures requiring other forms of anesthesia only in the personal presence of the supervising physician. A PA may act as first or second assistant in surgery under the supervising of the supervising physician.

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