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.