When patients entrust their care to physicians, they do not expect that their doctors will be able to cure them of any and all afflictions. However, they do expect that their healthcare providers will exercise their full expertise in diagnosing and treating them. When physicians fail to uphold this duty, they may be held liable for medical malpractice.
A recent New Jersey case of medical malpractice involving a physician’s failure to diagnose a patient correctly has resulted in a verdict of over $1 million. Tragically, the verdict was paid to the patient’s estate because he died as a result of the mistake.
The man was originally admitted to the emergency room for chest pain and breathing trouble. The consulting physician diagnosed him with a virus and sent him home. After the man’s symptoms worsened, he was so deeply concerned that he drew up and signed his own will.
Shortly thereafter, he collapsed after losing consciousness. He was pronounced dead upon arrival at the hospital. He had died due to the presence of a pulmonary embolism. The physician was held accountable for failing to diagnose and treat the embolism.
Doctors cannot give weight to every symptom, nor can they catch the emergence of every condition. However, when treating a patient, they are obligated to exercise their expertise in a manner consistent with their licensing and training. When physicians fail to diagnose conditions that they should have perceived and patients are harmed as a result of this negligent behavior, doctors may be held accountable for damages.