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Can a Doctor make a Bright Red Mistake and Yet not be Legally Responsible

Apr 11, 2015 | Medical Malpractice

A doctor makes a severe mistake, fails to diagnose symptoms of an impending heart attack and yet he was not legally responsible for the patient’s injuries. How is this possible?

Failure to Diagnose an Impending Heart Attack

In the medical malpractice case that followed, the plaintiff’s lawyer was able to show conclusively that the doctor had failed to diagnose his client’s cardiac symptoms. The client had gone to the doctor complaining of having significant chest and shoulder pain, and radiating pain down his left arm.

However, this board certified physician failed to consider even the possibility that there was any cardiac problems whatsoever. Because of this, the plaintiff suffered significant cardiac injury, and a myocardial infarction, which is a significant heart attack. However, this doctor was never legally responsible for the injuries the plaintiff had sustained.

Showing Wrongdoing is not Enough

In a medical malpractice case, you not only have to show wrongdoing, but also that the wrongdoing caused the injury, and such injury is significant or permanent. In this instance, the plaintiff’s lawyer was able to show that the doctor had clearly violated the basic standards of medical care; however, he was unable to show that the violation from standard of care caused or contributed to his client’s injuries.

This is why you should not assume you have won any case or spend any money before it is received. What may be obvious to you may not work under the eyes of the law.

You need to Show Causation as Well

The lawyer was unable to prove causation because of the delay in time from when the doctor missed the diagnosis. By the time the client reached the hospital that delay in time did not make a significant difference. This is why the plaintiff’s lawyer was unable to point a finger at the doctor and show successfully that not only did the doctor violate the basic standards of care, but also that violation contributed to the client’s injuries. This is because the client would have suffered the same types of injuries even if he was diagnosed correctly, a couple of hours earlier.

Doctor Escaped because of Short Time Delay

Suppose the client had consulted two doctors rather than just one – then these two doctors could be held legally responsible since a sufficient amount of time would have passed and the heart attack could have been avoided. However, for this doctor, because of the short delay in time, it could not be proven that the injuries and heart attack was the direct cause of the misdiagnosis.

Hence, even though the doctor had clearly violated the basic standards of medical care, his wrongdoing, could not be proved as the cause of the heart attack that the patient suffered. It means that the patient would have suffered the heart attack anyway and there was nothing that the doctor could have done to prevent it within such a short time frame.

Therefore, even though the lawyer could show the jury that the doctor was careless, there was no way of showing the client suffered the heart attack and the resultant injuries because of this carelessness. This is hard to swallow for some but a reality. For sure that doctor will probably never forget this case and perhaps took some flack in his own profession. He may not have obtained that promotion he was seeking.