The first time you hear the term “medicolegal advisor”, you might find yourself in considerable confusion. What is this strange amalgamation of the terms “medical” and “legal”, you ask – and what could such a farrago have to do with any sort of advise?
Do not worry, dear reader. We are here to dispel any doubts you may have.
Who – or what – is a medicolegal advisor?
Not everyone might be aware that such a profession exists, since after all it doesn’t come with a side serving of glamour. But if you’re a doctor, you should be knowing about their existence – they are sure to be of help to you at some point of your career!
The primary responsibility of a medicolegal advisor is to guide their clients through the quagmire which legal processes promise to be. These advisors act as interface between the doctor and due legal processes, much like a lawyer acts as an interface between their client and the due processes to which they are subject. They have to deal with claims, complaints, inquests – sometimes even criminal investigations. In cases where there is a scope of managing the entire project, which happens usually in high-profile cases, they are in constant touch with the doctors responsible, and give instructions to solicitors as well as barristers as is required, and supervise how the case is formed and takes shape as it progresses.
Medicolegal advisors are responsible for managing any situation where a doctor’s professional reputation comes into play as being a risk. For instance, if a doctor gets sued for clinical negligence claims, or if they are reported as being unethical – a medicolegal advisor covers all ethical or disciplinary matters as concerned wherever a doctor is charged for a particular case, and are tasked with dealing with all forms of tribunals.
To shed more light on this profession, a simple parallel is required.
Instead of a doctor who is responsible for treating patients, let us imagine a doctor who is in fact at the mercy of someone else – whoever has filed a complaint against them. In such a scenario, the doctor goes to a consultant who understand the nuances of the legal processes involved, and tells them to that they require their help.
Of course, in this scenario, the consultant is the medicolegal advisor. And each case – whether it involves neglect or oversight or malpractice – is different. Moreover, each case also has its own history, is interpreted in a certain manner, and has a certain diagnosis and prognosis. Given the varied and demanding nature of the field itself, medicolegal advisors have a variegated knowledge-base, comprising of medicine, patienthood, law, as well as the functioning of the healthcare system.
How the profession originated
As the complexities of law and ethics increasingly continued to intertwine in the medical profession, the medicolegal advisor had to be born. This was not only because all doctors could not possibly manage to understand the full scope of all the legalities involved within the profession, but also because a rising number of cases against doctors convinced them that they required more help in legal situations.
There is thus an understanding among medicolegal advisors that the doctor’s wellbeing is paramount. While doctors themselves deal with ailments of all natures, it is the task of medicolegal advisors to ensure that doctors are in a position in which they can be facilitated to take care of others. Think of it as the position most commonly occupied by a midwife – they deliver the child, taking care of the delivering mother in process, only so that later the mother can take care of her child.
Why you should get a medicolegal advisor
Let not the earlier paragraph fool you into thinking that the role of a medicolegal advisor is simply facilitative. It is, at every step of the way, just as defensive as it is aggressive. Medicolegal advisors support the doctor, in person, through their initial hearing, as well as throughout the duration of the trial. They also need to be quick on the uptake, should they need to move from one city to another at a short notice to represent a doctor at a disciplinary hearing.
Medicolegal advisers organise a team to help, represent, as well as guide doctors as they make their way through complicated legal procedures. Little needs to be said about how any investigations can be treated by complete shock and fear by the one who is being investigated – so medicolegal advisors take it upon themselves to listen to the concerns of the doctors in question and help them in whatever way they can.
As can be inferred from the job role, the primary task of a medicolegal advisor is to give advise – not make executive decisions on part of the doctor. Here comes another important part of their job role, which is to increase the standards to which all medical professionals are held. And of course, this is not done through jarring, invective statements, but through a gentle nudge in the direction of greater accountability. In addition to being a guide for doctors, medicolegal advisors are also advocates of risk management – especially when it comes to patient safety – occupying a unique and insightful vantage point about what leads to legal or disciplinary problems with the medical profession.
Today, we are all living in times of hyperawareness. In such a scenario, patients have increased expectations from their doctors, and owing to a large number of high profile cases – in which significant compensation is sought – the number of complaints continues to rise. Doctors, having taken an oath to treat lives, can only comply with these standards. However, given that it is always best to be prepared to face any situation, it is in their own interest that they should consider getting a medicolegal advisor. After all, they must always be in a position to serve others – to the best of their capabilities. And this is exactly what a medicolegal advisor will help them achieve!