Delays by medical personnel in making a diagnosis can often spell ill consequences for the patient. In Oregon and elsewhere, unreasonable delays and failing to follow the indications of an examination can be grounds for liability. A late diagnosis that is negligent, and which is a substantial factor in causing the patient's death, is sufficient to constitute medical malpractice.

A recent complaint filed in a neighboring state asks for wrongful death damages against a physician and a medical center associated with a university campus. The complaint was filed by the decedent's daughter and alleges that his death was occasioned by a late diagnosis in 2005. Curiously, the press reports do not indicate any issue over the statute of limitations, which may be a likely issue in the litigation.

The average time to file an action is governed by state law, which in many states is two years from the time of the last medical services provided. However, that test may be modified and the period may be extended through several legal principles, depending on the facts presented. The basis for the complaint in this case is that the decedent sought medical treatment for symptoms of severe infection and that he was consumed with a fatal attack of sepsis prior to receiving the necessary diagnosis and treatment. It is alleged that he was first examined by a doctor in his private office.

The defendant doctor is an internist, and it is alleged that he should have been able to diagnose a rampant infection and treat it, though he did not. The decedent then went to the defendant emergency care center where he waited eight hours before anyone saw him, per the complaint. With further delays, the patient was consumed with sepsis by the time that the hospital's medical staff made its late diagnosis, and the patient died shortly thereafter. The facts alleged in the complaint could support a viable medical malpractice claim in Oregon.


Source:, "Woman sues Alta Bates Summit Medical Center for alleged medical malpractice", Gibson Chu, Jan. 25, 2017