Medico-legal documents and code of ethics

I have just finished a case that dealt with possible hearing loss due to exposure to gunfire. It was an unusual case in that the hearing loss that followed exposure to gunfire did not manifest itself in the high frequencies as would be expected, but rather at 500 and 1000 Hertz. There was not a preponderance of evidence to support a causal effect of the gunfire. The case settled out of court. There is a lot to be said about gathering evidence to build a case; it must be accurate, current, thorough, and adequate. One issue in this case that bears repeating is that whenever an audiologist takes an intake history, or makes chart entries, or records audiometric and related data, or writes a report–those items are medico-legal documents subject to subpoena. Best practice is to make the entries as clear and legible as possible so that if the audiologist is called upon as a witness or another audiologist is to review and deliver an opinion to the court, that there will be adequate information to form such an opinion. Finally, practicing clinical audiologists must always consider that their priority is to the safety and wellbeing of their patients. If an audiologist is being asked to provide services for which he or she is not qualified, and/or for which he or she does not have practical experience, a referral to another qualified colleague is the appropriate course of action. Failing to do so is an obvious injustice to the patient/client and a violation of the professional code of ethics.

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