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Alternative Medicine and Professional Negligence

“Alternative medicine” is a term encompassing a loosely defined collection of medical and pseudo-medical approaches to solving health problems. It includes familiar treatments like chiropractic and acupuncture, as well as more obscure approaches using healing crystals and herbs. Therapies are labeled as “alternative” if they are not used by mainstream medical professionals. One reason a treatment can be labeled alternative is because its clinical effectiveness isn’t settled. Someone who is injured by an alternative medicine professional’s negligence may have legal recourse to recover compensation.

Nevada’s professional negligence statute covers some kinds of alternative medicine

Nevada law allows lawsuits against providers of health care for damages arising from an injury or death caused by the provider’s professional negligence (what used to be called “medical malpractice”). The definition of “provider of health care” captures some kinds of alternative medicine practitioners, but not all. It includes:
  • licensed physicians, optometrists, dentists, and other conventional health care providers
  • licensed psychologists
  • chiropractors
  • doctors of Oriental medicine licensed pursuant to NRS Chapter 634A to practice acupuncture, herbal medicine, and other practices regulated by the State Board of Oriental Medicine.
Provided that a health care provider falls within these categories, a professional negligence suit is the appropriate remedy for injuries they cause. Professional negligence claims are subject to special rules, such as a requirement that the plaintiff obtain an affidavit signed by another professional in the same or similar profession as the defendant who attests to the defendant’s negligence. Professional negligence lawsuits are subject to a cap on noneconomic damages.

Alternative medicine outside the scope of professional negligence

Some practitioners of alternative medicine practices are not recognized as “providers of health care” within the scope of Nevada’s professional negligence statute. In practice this may mean that injuries caused by such practitioners fall within conventional negligence. Because professional negligence statutes are designed to protect health care professionals from some kinds of liability, it’s to a plaintiff’s advantage if the defendant isn’t covered. The professional negligence statute’s damages cap and other technical requirements won’t apply. Patients who are considering using the services of an alternative medicine practitioners should use caution. The practitioner’s insurance should be scrutinized with care. Patients should not sign contracts with liability waiver language without first understanding the risks involved in a procedure. A treatment involving healing crystals may involve little inherent risk, but a treatment using herbs or chemicals that fall outside recognized norms may cause serious injury. Some practitioners may be committing fraud, violating licensing laws, or exposing their patients to dangerous situations.

GGRM is a Las Vegas medical malpractice law firm

The attorneys at Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez provide personal, attentive service to clients in the Las Vegas area. If you have been injured by an alternative medicine treatment and you would like to speak to an attorney about your legal options, please contact us for a free attorney consultation. Call us at 702-388-4476 or send us a request through our site.