California Civil Jury Instructions (CACI)

506. Alternative Methods of Care

[A/An] [insert type of medical practitioner] is not necessarily negligent just because [he/she] chooses one medically accepted method of treatment or diagnosis and it turns out that another medically accepted method would have been a better choice.

New September 2003

Sources and Authority

  • “A difference of medical opinion concerning the desirability of one particular medical procedure over another does not . . . establish that the determination to use one of the procedures was negligent.” (Clemens v. Regents of Univ. of California (1970) 8 Cal.App.3d 1, 13 [87 Cal.Rptr. 108].)
  • “Medicine is not a field of absolutes. There is not ordinarily only one correct route to be followed at any given time. There is always the need for professional judgment as to what course of conduct would be most appropriate with regard to the patient’s condition.” (Barton v. Owen (1977) 71 Cal.App.3d 484, 501—502 [139 Cal.Rptr. 494].)
  • This type of instruction may be important in arriving at a fair decision: “[I]n determining whether defendants breached a standard of care owed decedent, the jury may not engage in ‘but for’ reasoning.” (Meier v. Ross General Hospital (1968) 69 Cal.2d 420, 435 [71 Cal.Rptr. 903, 445 P.2d 519].)
  • “[I]n order for CACI No. 506 to be given, there must have been expert testimony presented to the jury to the effect that a medical practitioner chose a medically accepted method of diagnosis (or treatment) from among alternative medically accepted methods of diagnosis (or treatment).” (Ayala v. Arroyo Vista Family Health Center (2008) 160 Cal.App.4th 1350, 1353 [73 Cal.Rptr.3d 486].)

Secondary Sources

3 Levy et al., California Torts, Ch. 31, Liability of Physicians and Other Medical Practitioners, § 31.11 (Matthew Bender)

36 California Forms of Pleading and Practice, Ch. 415, Physicians: Medical Malpractice, § 415.13 (Matthew Bender)

17 California Points and Authorities, Ch. 175, Physicians and Surgeons: Medical Malpractice, § 175.34 (Matthew Bender)