People often seek naturopathic remedies when they believe traditional medicine is not effectively treating their health condition. Unfortunately, negligent providers involved in patient care can lead to medical errors that are often avoidable. Even seemingly minor mistakes can result in irreparable harm, leaving victims with life-long complications. In severe cases, the negligence of a healthcare provider who failed to uphold their duty to provide an acceptable standard of care can cause fatal injuries.
At Valent Legal, our firm is dedicated to building a strong case for naturopathic medical malpractice to present before the courts and insurers. We will fight for your legal right to compensation while you focus on recovering. We will also bring claims on behalf of a victim’s loved ones in the event of wrongful death.
What is Naturopathic Medicine?
As defined by the Canadian Association of Naturopathic Doctors (CAND), naturopathic medicine is a form of healthcare that uses a holistic prevention approach to diagnose, treat, and manage patients with acute and chronic conditions. It includes alternative forms of medicine and natural therapies that combine modern treatment with traditional methods. Common examples of naturopathic treatments include herbal remedies, acupuncture, clinical nutrition, exercise, and hydrotherapy.
Naturopathic medicine is used for a wide range of health issues, including:
- Fertility issues
- Digestive problems
- Hormonal imbalances
- Chronic pain
- Chronic fatigue syndrome
- Skin conditions
In Canada, licensed naturopathic doctors must complete a four-year post-graduate naturopathic medical program accredited by the Council of Naturopathic Medical Education (CNME). Naturopathic physicians must also complete standardized North American Board Exams (NPLEX) and jurisdictional exams, national standards of practice, and adhere to provincial regulations.
What is Naturopathic Malpractice?
With the rise in popularity of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), many people are unsure if a naturopathic doctor can be held accountable for medical malpractice in the same way as licensed medical doctors. All doctors, including naturopathic physicians, owe their patients a standard of care to provide adequate treatment. Any healthcare provider responsible for assessing, diagnosing, and treating illnesses that fails to uphold the standards established for their medical discipline is exposed to allegations of negligence or medical malpractice.
A healthcare professional is considered negligent when he or she disregards the fundamental duties of patient care through oversight, ignorance, or an unintentional mistake. Although the physician may not have intended to cause harm, a failure to recognize certain factors or act appropriately could put the patient in a life-threatening situation.
Who is Liable for Naturopathic Medical Malpractice?
Liability for the failure to administer, or the inappropriate use of, alternative medicine can be alleged against a single naturopathic practitioner. In cases where the naturopathic doctor works as part of a multidisciplinary team, multiple providers may be held liable, including employed staff and colleagues involved in patient treatment plans. A patient can also file a claim against the clinic for errors on behalf of its employees that resulted in a serious or fatal injury.
While all forms of medical treatment carry inherent risks, the following types of negligent behaviour can increase the probability of naturopathic medical malpractice:
- Misinterpreting test results
- Incomplete or rushed exams
- Failure to report accurate results
- Failure to hire qualified staff
- Failure to provide staff members with proper training
- Failure to obtain a patient’s medical history
- Failure to follow up on certain medical tests
- Equipment errors
Naturopathic treatments used during pregnancy, labour, and delivery can also lead to birth injuries that can be devastating to the family and innocent child. The risk of birth injury may increase if a mother relies on a naturopathic healthcare provider to perform procedures or treat symptoms that may require a western medicine approach. This could include imaging tests or surgical intervention.
Causes of Naturopathic Medical Malpractice
Generally, when you visit a naturopathic practitioner or other licensed medical professionals, they are required to tell you all of the necessary information related to the recommended treatments. This is referred to as informed consent. Physicians must also answer any questions about the treatment and disclose any risks involved. If you are not provided with any of the following, you should consider it a red flag.
Lack of informed consent or the negligent use of naturopathic medicine may not warrant a claim for medical malpractice. The negligent actions (or inactions) must fall below the accepted standard of care for the profession, causing harm. A naturopathic malpractice lawyer can help you understand if the actions of your healthcare provider meet the requirements for a successful medical malpractice case.
Failure to Make a Referral
Medical professionals are legally obligated to refer patients to a specialist when they cannot provide the care required to treat the patient. A naturopathic doctor who identifies a medical condition that is outside of their scope of practice or requires conventional medicine but fails to make a referral to a treating physician can cause serious harm to the patient.
A medication error refers to a preventable event within the pharmaceutical manufacturing and distribution process that can lead to a patient taking the wrong medication or dose. If a naturopathic healthcare provider prescribes an alternative medicine that is not safe or deemed ineffective, you may have grounds for a medical malpractice claim. Examples of unsafe naturopathic medical treatment can include intravenous infusion, vitamin therapy, or chelation therapy.
Failure to Prescribe Medication
A naturopathic doctor can be held negligent if they are aware of a medication that can treat a health condition more effectively than alternative medicine but chooses not to recommend the medication to the patient. Failure to prescribe medications or refer the patient to a prescribing physician can cause a health condition to get worse, extensive time to recover, and other complications.
Suing Naturopathic Doctors
There are challenges to filing medical malpractice lawsuits against naturopathic doctors, including the assumption of risk and relative autonomy of alternative medicine from outside criticism of medical authorities. To file a viable medical malpractice claim, you must demonstrate the standard of care that is reasonably expected of naturopathic physicians and how it was violated to meet the civil standard of proof.
Duty of Care
A duty of care is a legal obligation imposed on any medical professional when providing treatment to patients. You (the Plaintiff) will need to establish that a doctor-patient relationship existed with the provider (the Defendant).
Breach of Duty
The duty of care is breached when a physician delivers care below the accepted standard. You must prove that the level of care is inadequate compared to a naturopathic doctor with similar skills in the same conditions.
Causation is the link between the breach of duty and harm suffered by the patient. A medical malpractice lawyer will use medical records and expert testimony to show that the type and degree of your injuries would not have occurred without the negligent actions of the healthcare provider.
The injuries suffered due to the breach of duty must result in actual damages. In other words, the naturopathic negligence must cause physical, emotional, or financial losses.
Naturopathic Medicine Malpractice Compensation
Those who have suffered serious injuries at the hands of an alternative medicine provider must be aware of the deadlines to file medical malpractice lawsuits. This deadline is commonly referred to as the statute of limitations or limitation period. In Nova Scotia, the time limit to pursue a medical malpractice claim is two years from the date the injury occurred or was discovered. There are some exceptions to the deadline, but it’s recommended to start the claims process as soon as possible to maintain time sensitive information and records.
Compensation available for naturopathic medical malpractice claims is assessed based on the the extent and long-term impact of your injuries. The settlement is meant to compensate for the injuries suffered, attempting to put you back into the position had the negligence not occurred.
Types of damages you can recover in a naturopathic malpractice claim may include:
- Medical expenses
- Pain and suffering
- Psychological or emotional trauma
- Income loss
- Cost of care
- Future earning capacity
If you or someone you know has suffered an injury due to naturopathic malpractice, Valent Legal has the experience and resources to help you get justice. We work with seasoned medical authorities to analyze every detail of your case to determine whether your provider violated their duty to protect your health and safety. We represent clients in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island. Contact our law firm to book a free consultation with a medical malpractice lawyer. We work on a contingency fee basis, which means you don’t pay any legal fees unless we win your case.