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When does a doctor's duty of care begin?

A doctor’s duty of care begins the moment that a patient consults with a doctor for a diagnosis. A doctor must review a patient’s medical history and perform diagnostic tests and/or examinations to correctly assess the patient’s ailment.

Unfortunately, the failure to correctly or timely diagnose a condition can lead to serious patient injury. Indeed, early detection can greatly improve a patient’s chances of recovery. For serious conditions like cancer, even a delay of a few months might result in irreparable damage. 

In a recent example, a patient claims that a doctor misdiagnosed the redness in his right eye. The doctor diagnosed the condition as an inflamed pterygium and performed an excision. After the surgery, the patient continued to experience pain, watering and the sensation of having something in his right eye.

When the patient finally got a second opinion several weeks later, the condition proved to be an issue with his right cornea. The patient has now brought a medical malpractice lawsuit against the doctor, claiming that the misdiagnosis caused him pain and injuries.

Although persuading a jury of negligence may always require persuasive evidence, a medical malpractice lawsuit often adds the additional wrinkle of expert testimony. Specifically, an expert is usually needed to interpret a doctor’s actions and testify whether the treatment deviated from the standard of care applicable to the medical profession. Our law firm focuses on medical malpractice litigation and has a network of forensic and medical specialists. Check out our firm’s website page on misdiagnosis and other medical injuries to learn more.

Source: West Virginia Record, “Man sues eye doctor, Marshall for negligence,” Kyla Asbury, March 23, 2015

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