Not every doctor can be an expert in every specialty. Sometimes, a particular health issue or problem may require an expert. When a doctor fails to refer a patient to a specialist, can he or she be liable if that patient’s condition worsens?
Physician Standard of Care
When a doctor is sued for medical malpractice or medical negligence, the injured patient has to show that the doctor was operating below the acceptable standard of care, and that the doctor’s negligence caused the patient’s injury.
In the health profession, whether a doctor or other medical professional is operating below the standard of care can be difficult to determine. Usually, the doctor must treat the patient with the same out of skill, care, and diligence that would be expected from any other reasonably competent doctor in the same circumstances. The doctor will be judged according to the type of medicine that he or she practices, as well as the customary practices and treatment techniques of other doctors in the same area.
For example, a general practitioner who misdiagnosed a foot injury would not be held to the same standards as a podiatrist who specializes in the feet. The GP would be held to the same standards as other general practitioners in the same area. In the same way, a specialist with expert training would be judged more harshly for a medical error in his or her specialty than a doctor without the same training.
When a Failure to Refer Is Below the Standard of Care
Even though a general doctor may not be held to the same standards as a specialist, a general physician may be medically negligent when any other doctor in his or her position would have referred the patient to a specialist.
A doctor does not have the option of ignoring a confusing symptom, or continuing to treat a patient with a condition that the doctor does not understand. When a reasonable doctor in the same situation would decide that specialized help is required, there is an obligation to refer that patient to someone else.
When failing to refer a patient to a specialist falls below a doctor’s reasonable standard of care, that doctor may be responsible for any injuries the patient suffered as a result of the delayed diagnosis or treatment.
Proving that a patient suffered harm because a doctor failed to act can be tricky. In order to a misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis was both the cause of the patient’s injury and a result of the initial doctor’s failure to make a referral, an attorney must sort through complex medical files and treatment records.
When your medical malpractice lawsuit relies on complicated evidence, you need an attorney who understands the medicine as well as the law. Attorney Bradley I. Kramer, M.D., is both a doctor and a lawyer. He and his team of dedicated legal and medical professionals use their expertise to help you get justice after an injury caused by medical negligence. If you believe your doctor’s delay in diagnosing or treating your condition caused you harm, you may have a case for malpractice.
For a free consultation at the Trial Law Offices of Bradley I. Kramer, M.D., Esq., call us today at (310) 289-2600 or use our online contact form to have your case reviewed for free.