Is Misdiagnosis Always Medical Malpractice?

What started as a simple trip to the doctor turned into a three-year-long nightmare for one man in California. The man, an athlete and avid runner, hurt his ankle during a jog, and for a few days, nothing happened. Then, suddenly, the injured ankle began to swell and look worse than it had right after the run. The man’s doctor treated him for a sprained ankle and the flu, and sent him back home. However, only three days later, he was rushed to the emergency room. As it happened, his original doctor had misdiagnosed a bacterial infection. The result was that the man went into septic shock, which caused gangrene in his hands and feet. Ultimately, doctors were forced to amputate his left arm, his right foot, two fingers and five toes.

While there is no doubt that this runner was misdiagnosed, proving that this misdiagnosis was medical malpractice proved problematic. The man and his family tried to file a case with the medical center where he was originally treated, but lost the case in arbitration. Next, the family contacted the California Medical Board, which investigates cases of medical wrongdoing. After an investigation, the Medical Board did determine that the original doctor’s treatment was substandard. The case then went to the Attorney General’s Office, which can file medical malpractice lawsuits on behalf of victims. However, a lawsuit never went forward, since the Attorney General’s Office determined that there was not enough evidence to prove medical malpractice.

Is Misdiagnosis Always Medical Malpractice?

Each state has its own laws governing medical malpractice cases. In general, it’s not enough that a doctor simply makes a mistake. The mistake has to be as the result of negligence, meaning that another competent doctor would not have made the error in treatment.  In California, where this case took place, the laws are particularly strict, requiring either repeated offenses or “gross negligence”. In order to be able to file a personal injury lawsuit against a doctor for medical malpractice, the victim and his or her lawyers have to be able to prove that the error or misdiagnosis was not a mistake that a competent doctor would make.

In this case, the Attorney General’s Office determined that there was not enough evidence to prove  medical malpractice. However, the victim and his family are not so sure, and neither are other attorneys who weighed in on the case. According to one personal injury lawyer, if the California Medical Board determined that there was enough evidence to prove medical negligence, then that same proof should be good enough for the Attorney General. To make matters worse, the Attorney General’s Office does not release specific reasons for declining a case, leaving the victim and his family without answers. While misdiagnosis is not always grounds for a medical malpractice case, many feel that it was just that, in this case.

Nashville personal injury attorney Stanley A. Davis has nearly 20 years of experience helping victims with their medical malpractice cases.

Mark 2:17 “When Jesus heard this, he said to them, ‘Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick’”