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February 19, 1992

Free Clinics and Malpractice Claims

Author Affiliations

Toledo, Ohio

JAMA. 1992;267(7):933-934. doi:10.1001/jama.1992.03480070049024

To the Editor.  —Dr Kelleher's article on free clinics1 as well as the letters to the Editor entitled "Volunteer Clinic Caveats"2,3 bring up a question that should be addressed. A volunteer physician giving free medical care is still exposed to malpractice charges. Indeed, given that the people using the free clinics are usually the poor with nothing to lose in a lawsuit, I suspect that the malpractice risk may actually be increased. Further, should physicians doing volunteer clinic work be obligated to inform their insurance carriers of this increased exposure?I have been informed by my own attorney that there is no way the volunteer physician or clinic can extract a promise in advance that individuals receiving free care will not, at some future time, file a malpractice claim against the caregiver, either a physician or an institution. In view of this, Dr Kleinman's3 recommendation to rely