A medical misdiagnosis can turn the lives of patients and their families upside down. The consequences can be serious: ineffective treatments, avoidable complications and a plummeting quality of life.
What can you do when faced with a medical misdiagnosis? Our health lawyers have the answers you’re looking for. In this hard-hitting article, learn about the steps you can take if you, or a loved one, are the victim of a medical misdiagnosis.
Don’t let a misdiagnosis impact your life without taking action. Trust our health lawyers as they explain medical liability, how compensation works and what legal recourse you have in case of a medical misdiagnosis.
How to know when a doctor is liable for misdiagnosis
According to the Code of Ethics of Physicians, doctors who practice in Quebec must carry out specific duties. They are legally obliged to diagnose and treat patients who ask for their services.
A doctor’s duty to diagnose and treat the patient
According to the Quebec Code of ethics of physicians, a doctor is obliged to diagnose and treat a patient according to established rules of good practice, including:
- Using widely accepted methods
- Performing an appropriate physical examination
- Requesting relevant consultations
- Prescribing examinations and tests
- Interpreting data correctly
- Confirming their assessment using tests
- Monitoring their diagnosis and, in case of doubt, consulting a colleague
- Informing a patient of their diagnosis in good time.
According to the law, failure to comply with these obligations may constitute a civil fault, and in certain circumstances this makes a doctor liable for damages.
Physician liability for medical misdiagnoses
Medical liability for diagnostic errors is not automatic. Medicine is a constantly evolving, inexact science, a fact that is supported by both medical doctrine and jurisprudence. Barring a few exceptions, medical doctors are held responsible by an ‘obligation of means’ (meaning they must do everything possible to cure a patient) and not an ‘obligation of result’ (which would mean a doctor has to guarantee a cure).
Thus, if a doctor makes a misdiagnosis, they will not automatically be held liable if they have adhered to accepted medical standards of practise. It is essential to assess whether the physician acted in a reasonably prudent, diligent and competent manner in order to determine whether they could be held liable for a medical error.
Medical misdiagnosis: not the physician’s responsibility
A doctor is not liable if they can demonstrate that they chose an ineffective treatment with good intent and careful consideration, in a situation where a patient’s symptoms could potentially be linked to a variety of illnesses. If all necessary tests have been carried out prior to treatment, the doctor will not be held liable in the event of complications. The court will take the view that any reasonable doctor would have acted in the same way, leading to the same result.
Medical misdiagnosis: the physician is at fault
A member of the Collège des médecins du Québec may be held liable if they do not prescribe necessary examinations or take note of test results in a timely manner.
Neglecting to perform necessary examinations and failing to consult a specialist when in doubt could constitute legal negligence on the part of the physician. Lack of up-to-date information can also lead to a misdiagnosis, and doctors are responsible for staying informed of current medical standards and practises. These are key points to keep in mind when considering a situation involving medical liability, quality care and protecting patients’ rights.
Medical liability according to the court
When a medical misdiagnosis complaint is filed, the court will examine the case and determine whether the doctor acted with due care and diligence under the circumstances. The judge will also assess whether another doctor would have made the same decision in a similar situation.
Each error is assessed on a case-by-case basis to determine whether it constitutes a fault and the physician is liable:
- If a physician has acted according to accepted medical practice, their error will not be considered a fault and they will not be held liable.
- If a doctor’s actions conflict with accepted medical standards, they will be held liable for the resulting damage.
Victims or their representatives have 3 years from the moment they learned of the medical error, or from the appearance of the first symptoms linked with the error, in which to take legal action.
Compensation for misdiagnosis: legal recourse
If you or a loved one has been the victim of a medical misdiagnosis, you may be entitled to compensation for psychological or personal injury. As in most cases of medical malpractice, you will need to sue the treating physician in civil court.
Who can sue for misdiagnosis?
A patient who is still alive or a survivor who has suffered direct injury as a result of medical malpractice can take legal action against the doctor who they believe is responsible.
Even heirs who have disclaimed the estate can sue for compensation, as the law protects anyone who has suffered direct loss as a result of the error, regardless of whether the victim is alive or dead.
Possible compensation for misdiagnosis
Civil lawsuits for misdiagnosis allow victims to claim direct personal damages. This can include lost wages, medical expenses, and compensation for grief directly caused by the misdiagnosis.
In the event of a patient’s death, next of kin can also claim:
- Reimbursement for funeral expenses
- Compensation for the loss of future economic support they would have received from the victim if the victim was the family provider
- Compensation for suffering endured between the misdiagnosis and the victim’s death, on behalf of the deceased patient.
Obtain compensation for medical misdiagnosis with MedLégal
If you suspect that your physician is responsible for a misdiagnosis and you may be the victim of malpractice, it is your legal right to file a complaint with the Collège des Médecins du Québec to launch an investigation.
However, remember that the role of the Collège des médecins is not to provide compensation, but to protect the public. For financial compensation, you will need to take legal action in court.
The health lawyers at MedLégal offer a specialized medical liability service for victims of medical malpractice. Our health law firm offers an all-in-one approach: victims can obtain personalized legal advice and support throughout the claims process, from initial data collection to legal proceedings related to medical misdiagnosis.
Contact us today to discuss your situation with a lawyer. Don’t live in the shadow of a medical error. It is important to assert your legal rights!