Medical malpractice implications of alternative medicine

David M. Studdert, David M. Eisenberg, Frances H. Miller, Daniel A. Curto, Ted J. Kaptchuk, Troyen A. Brennan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

94 Scopus citations


Although use of alternative therapies in the United States is widespread and growing, little is known about the malpractice experience of practitioners who deliver these therapies or about the legal principles that govern the relationship between conventional and alternative medicine. Using data from malpractice insurers, we analyzed the claims experience of chiropractors, massage therapists, and acupuncturists for 1990 through 1996. We found that claims against these practitioners occurred less frequently and typically involved injury that was less severe than claims against physicians during the same period. Physicians who may be concerned about their own exposure to liability for referral of patients for alternative treatments can draw some comfort from these findings. However, liability for referral is possible in certain situations and should be taken seriously. Therefore, we review relevant legal principles and case law to understand how malpractice law is likely to develop in this area. We conclude by suggesting some questions for physicians to ask themselves before referring their patients to alternative medicine practitioners.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1610-1615
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of the American Medical Association
Issue number18
StatePublished - Nov 11 1998


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