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Do Not Sign a Doctor Arbitration Agreement!

I visited a new doctor's office today, so of course I had to fill out all of the paperwork: Personal information, medical history, insurance information -- the standard stuff.

Included in the papers on the clipboard was a form that I haven't been asked to sign by other doctors...a "Physician-Patient Arbitration Agreement." In so many words, signing this "agreement" would forego my right to file a lawsuit against the doctor and his medical group should they make any mistake in my medical care--you know, the kind of mistake that could kill me. Instead of a jury trial, any complaint that I filed (through my attorney) would have to be presented to an "impartial" arbitration panel and their decision would be final. Trust me, arbitration panels are often not impartial--your chanes of a fair hearing are much better in front of a jury (I practiced law for 12+ years).

I did not want to sign this arbitration form, but I thought to myself, "If I don't sign, will this doctor treat me?" I walked to the waiting room desk and politely asked if I was required to sign the Arbitration Agreement. The pleasant woman said, "No, it's optional," and proceeded to draw a big "X" across the form.

While I waited for my name to be called, I watched three other patients flip through the paperwork and sign the sneaky Arbitration Agreement. I'm sure they were not lawyers and had little idea what they were signing -- probably didn't even read it -- or, assumed they had to sign it to be treated at that office. Bottom line: Do not sign this type of form! (Or, at the very least, ask if signing is mandatory.)

I don't know what annoyed me more--the fact that they were giving this form to patients OR they were not volunteering that signing the form is optional.

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Never sign an arbitration

Never sign an arbitration form. Never agree to arbitration under any circumstance. You are giving up all your legal rights that you have in court. An arbitrator does not have to follow the law or common sense. It is almost impossible to appeal an arbitrator's ruling.

Lot's of unsubstantiated

Lot's of unsubstantiated legal opinion here. Frankly I don't give a hoot about the opinion of an anonymous poster who "has a lawyer in the family."

If people sign such arbitration agreements the courts will enforce them UNLESS there is duress. When doctors slip these documents into a stack of standard intake forms they not only stack the deck against the patient but deal from the bottom of the deck. If the agreement is secured on the threat that necessary medical treatment will be denied then that’s a prime facie case of duress and the agreement may be void as against sound public policy.

The right to a jury trial is a ‘fundamental’ constitutional right. Not even congress can pass a law abrogating a ‘fundamental’ right unless it can show there is a ‘compelling governmental interest’, that the law it is narrowly tailored to achieve that interest, and that there is no less restrictive alternative. Tell me what permits a doctor to do what no law maker can do.

The question asked but not answered is this: what is the LEGAL AUTHORITY for the proposition that a doctor can force a patient to waive a ‘fundamental’ constitutional right as a condition of receiving medical care?

Absolutely no one here has shown that legal authority and until that is shown the answer must a presumptive be an unequivocal “NO!” Moreover the practice of exploiting legal ignorance to make sick people believe they must waive their “fundamental’ constitutional rights before receiving medical care strikes me as both unconscionable and unethical.

I refused to sign the

I refused to sign the arbitration form today because of one clause I've not seen before. It was a phrase that said the maximum arbitration award could not exceed the maximum amount of a small claims court award. I probably should just have lined out that clause rather than refusing to sign it totally.

I have a lawyer in the

I have a lawyer in the family, and his approach to these arbitration agreements is simple and non-confrontational, and although sneaky, it is quite fair.

Technically, contracts do not need to be typed--they can be handwritten, even on a napkin. Usually the arbitration agreements are about a page long, and somewhere in the beginning is a single sentence that is the crux of the whole document--it states that you give up the right to a court trial and instead agree to arbitration. You can take a pen, and simply cross a fine line over the necessary words to change the language of the contract, and even write-in your own edits. Just make sure that you're language clearly shows you are not giving up your right to court trial. If you keep your writing small enough that the staff won't notice it, but pronounced enough that the scanners/photocopiers/carbon copies pick it up, you should be fine should push come to shove and the doctor indeed harms you.

If it is the policy of the doctor's office that signing the form is mandatory, then their accepting that form and proceeding to perform medical services on you constitutes an agreement of the contract. It may be sneaky because the doctor himself probably has no idea that the contract between you two is different than his standard contract that was printed and presented for you to sign, but from an ethical standpoint I think (and I hope you all agree) it is entirely fair, because in the end all you are doing is protecting your constitutional right to a court trial, and it would only ever come to that if indeed the doctor has acted negligently and harmed you.

The day may come when arbitration agreements are found to be illegal because they strip you of a constitutional right, especially if it becomes near-impossible to find a doctor that does not require an arbitration agreement. Until that day, write your own edits to the contract.

I was presented with a

I was presented with a financial and an arbitration agreement. All I needed was a cyst incision and drainage, and eventually total excision. I sent to my lawyer and she explained that most of the time the requirement comes from the insurance companies or the upper corporate entity (in the case of large practices). The issues were: the arbitration system with the main issue being that awards are usually much lower than in a jury trial; the fact that they required me to give out my credit card information, sitting in file forever for anyone to see, and for the practice to charge me whatever and whenever they wanted; the fact that the agreement could be amended without any acceptance required on my part; and the fact that it was asking if I had a living will and other very personal documentation... The advice I received was what others have done: look for another doctor's office. The amount of information and rights wretched from me wasn't proportional to the level of service I required from them.
The attorney also mentioned that this is the trend and may become the norm. And in my mind is the question of who will oppose this trend. At what level does legal action start to make a difference in the way the practice goes? Representatives? Does it have to go to trial. I certainly felt that the pain on my back (from the cyst) was a good extortion tool compelling me to sign, but I bucked up and went back to my primary care provided, who performed the I&D, and to my dermatologist, also able to perform the excision. I trust both and didn't have to sign my life away.

These forms are becoming more

These forms are becoming more and more prevalent in California. It started with my gyno and now just about every medical office that I go to has one. I just don't understand how it's legal to require someone to sign away their right to a trial, or else refuse them medical care. It seems ludicrous. I've since decided that I'm going to require doctor's form at the time that I make an appointment and if they include this garbage I'll just cancel and go elsewhere.



Doctors and the insurance

Doctors and the insurance industry are destroying our health care system. Why should a patient be required to relinquish his rights? It's unconscionable. The good news is that, if every doctor starts doing this, the patient won't have a real choice in the matter, and the patient can argue in court that these arbitration agreements are unenforceable contracts of adhesion...

I just left a Dr's appt

I just left a Dr's appt without seeing a Dr. because I was informed the agreement was mandatory. How can a MANDATORY agreement hold up in court? Anyway, I refused to sign it and the Dr. refused to see me.

You guys are all psychos, the

You guys are all psychos, the big bad doctors aren't out to get you they're just trying to protect themselves from nut cases like you who would sue if something went wrong. Quite being such scared little whiners and move on.


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