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October 14, 1974

Creation of the Physician-Patient Relationship: Part I

JAMA. 1974;230(2):278-279. doi:10.1001/jama.1974.03240020066032

CREATION of the physician-patient relationship is a matter of ordinary contract law in most circumstances. An "express" contract will be held to exist when a patient seeks out a physician and asks him to treat a specific ailment, and the physician agrees to do so. An "implied" contract, in law, is one that arises from the actions of the parties and not from a verbal agreement. It may arise between a physician and patient under many circumstances. Since a physician owes no duty of careful treatment to an individual who is not his patient, many court decisions involve attempts to determine whether or not an implied contract did in fact exist.

Implied Contracts  A typical example of a situation where a patient claimed that a given physician was, in fact, responsible for her care and the physician denied he had ever intended to undertake responsibility for her treatment was Smart