Legal Ramifications of the NCCN Practice Guidelines

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Physicians concerned about being sued for medical malpractice for following (or deviating from) a clinical practice guideline written by the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) or otherreputable group should keep in mind one general principle: "Good medicine is good law." In other words, if a physician follows a course of action in line with the professional standard of care, regardless of whether or not he or she adheres to a particular guideline, that individual has little to worry about with regard to malpractice liability. The standard of care against which malpractice liability is measured is defined informally as "what a similar doctor would do under similar circumstances." Thus, if most oncologists observe the NCCN guidelines (or if their practice already comports with them), the guidelines will serve as the professional standard against which all oncologists' conduct will be measured. If oncologists ignore the NCCN guidelines, the malpractice standard will continue to reflect the way oncologists actually treat cancer patients.

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