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Thursday, 01 March 2012 12:22

Medical Law And Ethics Featured

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Medical Law And Ethics

Medical bodies and state laws have been established in different countries and states to ensure that professionals in the medical field follow the correct procedures and steps and that only qualified professional practice medicine. The definition of practicing medicine has also been clearly explained. Those professionals who do not abide by these set laws are therefore subject to punishment by law (Baxter 2005).

Jerry has only trained as a medical assistant and Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN), so he is not qualified to give prescriptions. If Jerry had been directly instructed by Dr. William to call in a refill, it would be okay to do so. It would also be okay for Jerry to call in the refill if there was an existing standing order for the refill on the patient’s chart. According to the law, it is not appropriate for medical assistants to call in new prescriptions or any medical prescriptions that might have changes in them. Only a physician, clinical pharmacist, dentist, surgeon or a podiatrist, who has a license to practice, can only give prescriptions to a patient. The patient in this case has specified that Dr. Williams gives him a valium prescription as a friend and not as a doctor so if Jerry were to call in his refill, he would be exposing himself and Dr William’s to the risk of a malpractice case (Fremgen 2009).

It would not make a difference if the medication that was requested for was for was for the control of high blood pressure instead. It would only be appropriate for Jerry to call in a refill for such a case if there was a standing order for refill of such medication. Even if the patient critically needs the medication on a daily basis, it would not be appropriate for Jerry to call in a prescription because it is against the law to do so. If Jerry was to call in a prescription and the patient was to have an adverse reaction, Jerry would only be protected from a lawsuit under the doctrine of respondent superior if there was an existing standing order for a refill. If Jerry made a new prescription, he would be liable to a lawsuit because his qualifications do not allow him to give a prescription and he does not hold a license.

Considering the doctrine of respondent superior Dr. Williams would be liable for Jerry’s actions if only Jerry was acting within his scope but in this case Jerry calling in the prescription would be way out of his responsibilities. So even if the Jerry argued that the patient was critically ill, it would still be considered as practising medicine without a license which is illegal. Medical doctors are therefore held responsible for actions of those medical employees under their supervision. Ethically, Jerry would be wrong in calling in a prescription which he knows he is not qualified in doing and might even expose the patient to health complications (Baxter 2005).

My advice to Jerry is for him not to call in a prescription. He should call Dr. Williams and ask him to call in the prescription instead. Jerry can also refer the case to another licensed doctor to try and avoid any legal complications. If Jerry was to fill the prescription, he would be liable for malpractice or for exceeding his scope of practice. Jerry might also expose Dr. Williams to a malpractice case because he has not supervised him properly. All medical assistants should abide to the rules that have been set by the medical association body, rules set by the state and rules set by the healthcare facilities where such individuals work.

Different states have different laws regarding the scope of practice of a medical assistant for example in the state of California law allows a medical assistant to examine a patient, perform an electro cardiogram, administer medication, collect non- evasive samples, remove bandages and staples and perform other minor medical duties but the law forbids a medical assistant from prescribing medicine to patient since the qualifications of a medical assistant do not license them to do so. As of the year 2003, only the states of; Arizona, Connecticut, California, Maine, Iowa, Nevada, New York, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin have established medical assistant rules for practising. A LPN also can only work under the supervision of a registered nurse or a physician.  There are other states that have got no law concerning the practice of medical assistants.

It would also be considered unethical for Jerry to call in prescriptions for Dr. William’s patients because Jerry is not qualified for such kind of a medical responsibility (Fremgen 2008). He might unknowingly prescribe a drug that might harm the patient which can result in harm to the patient. If such a patient was to develop health complications from drugs that were called in by a medical assistant, the patient can rightfully sue jerry and the health institution where Jerry works for exceeding his scope of practice and sue the health institution for malpractice. Jerry should call Dr. Williams or another doctor who is on call to call in the prescription instead. This would be the right ethical decision to make.


Baxter, C., Brennan, M.G., Coldicott, Y., Moller, M., (2005). The practical Guiode to Medical Ethics and Law. Cheshire.

Fremgen, B.F. (2008). Medical Law and Ethics. Prentice Hill.


Last modified on Thursday, 01 March 2012 12:28
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