Continuous Treatment Doctrine Law and Legal Definition

Continuous treatment doctrine is a principle whereby the limitations period for bringing a medical-malpractice action is tolled while the patient continues treatment that is related to the negligent act or omission. The "continuing treatment" doctrine, recognizes that a lawsuit would have an immediate and detrimental effect on the relationship between a physician and the client, and thus provides that medical malpractice claims against a physician treating the patient does not accrue until the treatment ends, so the patient can wait until then to bring suit.

Under the continuous treatment doctrine, the time in which a plaintiff must bring an action alleging malpractice is stayed when the course of treatment which includes the wrongful acts or omissions has run continuously and is related to the same original condition or complaint. The policy underlying the continuous treatment doctrine seeks to maintain the physician-patient relationship in the belief that the most efficacious medical care will be obtained when the attending physician remains on a case from onset to cure. Implicit in the policy is the recognition that the doctor not only is in a position to identify and correct his or her malpractice, but is best placed to do so. Thus, it is essential to the application of the doctrine that there be a course of treatment established with respect to the condition that gives rise to the lawsuit. Neither the mere continuing relation between physician and patient nor the continuing nature of a diagnosis is sufficient.[Ganess by Ganess v. City of New York, 85 N.Y.2d 733 (N.Y. 1995)]