How Do You Know if Your Doctor was Negligent?
In Pennsylvania, many patients who suspect that their doctor was negligent often want to know how they can find out for sure. Unfortunately, there is no easy way to find out. A lawyer almost always has to get involved. That’s because doctors will rarely, if ever, admit to making a mistake. Therefore, in order to determine whether a doctor was negligent, there are 2 issues that have to be addressed. First, did the doctor’s conduct fall below the standard of care? Second, is it cost-effective to take legal action?
Did the Doctor’s Conduct Fall Below the Standard of Care? Was the Doctor Negligent?
This is one of the most common questions patients and their families have. Here’s a common scenario: A patient at a large medical practice in Philadelphia suffers from a specific symptom which continues for months. The patient sees a specialist who orders some diagnostic tests. The patient has cancer which goes undetected. The radiologist misreads the diagnostic tests and sends a report back to the specialist who advises that the patient is good health and does not need to worry. The patient ignores the symptoms, believing the specialist. A year later, the patient is hospitalized with Stage 4 cancer and dies shortly afterwards. Naturally, the patient’s family members demand to know what happened. They speak to the specialist who refuses to discuss the case with them.
Here, the question of whether the specialist was negligent depends on whether the conduct fell below the standard of care among similarly situated specialists. In a cancer misdiagnosis case in Philadelphia, the issue is often whether the specialist acted reasonably under the circumstances. Therefore, the facts surrounding the diagnostic tests are important. There are a myriad of questions and issues which must be examined, such as:
- Did the specialist order the correct tests?
- Did the specialist overlook something during the examination?
- Did the specialist make a mistake in not viewing the diagnostic tests herself?
- Did the specialist have any reason not to rely on the test readings?
- Were there other symptoms?
- Were there other health conditions that explained the symptoms?
In order to get these answers, a medical expert must be hired. That expert will review the medical records, diagnostic tests, etc., and make a call as to whether there was negligence or not. This will require discussing the case with a medical malpractice lawyer, and not just any lawyer. Patients and family members who want to know whether they have a valid claim or not must find a lawyer with experience working with medical experts in these cases. Oftentimes, the key is knowing what questions to ask or what issues to pursue.
In addition, the radiologist/hospital where the diagnostic tests were taken may also be liable for negligence. However, simply misreading a diagnostic test is not de facto evidence of negligence. There must be proof that the radiologist failed to act in accordance with standards applicable to other radiologists. Therefore, in these types of cases, hospital protocol involving diagnostic tests must be reviewed.
It’s important to note that hiring a medical expert to make a determination in a potential medical malpractice case is costly. Oftentimes, the facts and circumstances of a case require more than one expert. Experts may be needed in each of the following fields: cancer treatment, hospital radiology and the specialty of the initial doctor. For instance, in a bowel cancer misdiagnosis case, an oncologist, hospital radiologist and gastroenterologist may be required.
Consequently, patients and loved ones who want to pursue a medical malpractice or negligence action in Pennsylvania should know that the case must involve injuries or damages serious enough to warrant proceeding with a review by an expert. Stay tuned for more info about whether it’s cost-effective to take legal action in a medical malpractice case in Pennsylvania.
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