In Oregon and all other jurisdictions, the law of medical negligence imposes a duty on doctors to use due care in diagnosing the patient’s medical condition. A misdiagnosis can result in a catastrophic outcome for the patient. Thus, a negligent misdiagnosis that causes severe injury or death will result in liability by the doctor to the patient or to the deceased patient’s estate.

A classic example of misdiagnosis was the subject of a lawsuit that recently ended in a jury verdict of $4 million in favor of the patient’s family and against the treating doctor. The 40-year-old patient had gone into the hospital emergency room complaining of nausea, chest pains and shortness of breath. The nurses allegedly reported the chest pains, but the treating physician apparently ignored those reports and diagnosed an abdominal condition and a gastrointestinal problem.

Essentially, the doctor sent the patient home with purported indigestion, and he died two days later of a heart attack. It was later found that the man had severely clogged arteries to the heart, which should have been diagnosed as triple vessel coronary artery disease involving the three main arteries to the heart. Today, medicine has made great strides in nearly perfecting heart bypass operations, giving many patients like the deceased young man a new lease on a long and healthy life.

Here in Oregon, and in other states, there are a good number of cases where emergency room doctors and others do not perform in a reasonably competent manner. When a patient appears at the ER with reported symptoms, doctors do not always focus appropriately on the patient’s symptoms. They don't always conduct the tests and follow the protocol demanded by those symptoms. Like the rest of us, they also suffer from human foibles that may distract them from the task at hand. Unfortunately, when a misdiagnosis is caused by such carelessness, a patient’s life may be tragically cut off or severely damaged.

Source: Daily Mountain Eagle, "Jury awards $4M in malpractice case", Rachel Davis, Aug. 22, 2014

Source: Daily Mountain Eagle, "Jury awards $4M in malpractice case", Rachel Davis, Aug. 22, 2014