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Bet my career on your dodgy diet plan? I don't think so

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You have to wonder if an architect would stake her career on plans she’d never seen. Or if a lawyer would be happy to sign a guarantee that his client would lead a blame-free life for the next six months. Perhaps the set-up of general practice encourages the view that we’ll always be happy dumping-grounds for any responsibility that’s going, but dieting companies really take the fat-free biscuit.

A friend was recently telling me about her GP’s shortcomings. This can always be relied on as a fun scenario at parties, and I’m sure you enjoy treading this particular social tightrope as much as I do.

For a change, the problem wasn’t failure to immediately refer, but refusal to sign something. She had joined a weight-loss program that involved skipping a lot of meals and having nothing but fluids at others.

The company supplying the drinks for this program had instructed her to ask her GP to sign a form saying that she was completely fit to undergo it, and that if anything went wrong, they couldn’t be held at fault.

The GP had, outrageously I’m sure you’ll agree, refused to sign this bit of crystal ball-gazing legalese.

We work in a profession that’s not lacking in legal minefields, and the reason that most of us manage to get through it fairly unscathed is that we’ve got good at spotting when something’s dodgy.

I was astonished, but she genuinely hadn’t realised that this had huge legal implications for her GP. This really was a one-way street: the company would take the money, her doctor would take the responsibility. What could be fairer than that?

Perhaps I’m being paranoid, and perhaps other GPs sign this kind of thing happily. I would interpret this exactly as I presume that other GP did – an invitation to bet my career on whether or not she keeled over in the six months of the program’s schedule.

However safe their programme is (and I’m sure it’s wonderful), unexpected things happen. It’s not a good bet to make.

Dr Nick Ramscar is a GP in Bracknell, Berkshire

Readers' comments (1)

  • Hazel Drury

    Hmm.. I certainly think you could make an educated guess as to whether or not the patient was fit. Hell, she may even have lost some weight! Always best to alter these forms if necessary by adding "to the best of my knowledge" prior to signing them.If anyone then takes you to court then they have to prove whatever caused harm was forseeable. Not very likely to happen but possible. But then that of course is why you charge a hefty fee for what patient sees as "a mere signature".

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