A misdiagnosis can be very detrimental to a patient’s quality of life and to their loved ones. It can result in the actual problem not being treated in a timely manner, which can increase its severity. And if treatment is prescribed based on the misdiagnosis, it can have harmful effects on the patient.
What recourse do patients have in this type of situation? That’s what our health lawyers explain in this article.
Read on to find out about the responsibilities doctors have towards their patients and the ways victims of misdiagnosis can seek compensation.
How to recognize when a doctor is liable of misdiagnosis
According to the Code of Ethics of Physicians, doctors who practice in Quebec have various duties and obligations towards their patients. One of these obligations is making a diagnosis and treating patients who seek their services.
A doctor’s duty to diagnose and treat the patient
According to the Code of Ethics of Physicians, good practices for medical diagnosis include: using commonly accepted methods, performing a physical examination in compliance with professional standards, requesting the appropriate consultations, ordering the required tests, correctly interpreting the results, assessing, using the appropriate tests, verifying the diagnosis and consulting a colleague if needed. Doctors must also notify the patient of the diagnosis in a timely manner and inform them if they make a mistake.
In the eyes of the courts, a breach of this obligation may constitute a civil fault and the doctor is liable in certain situations.
Doctors are not automatically at fault in cases of misdiagnosis
In both the medical field and jurisprudence, it is acknowledged that medicine is in constant development and is not as exact a science as people might think. This is one of the reasons why doctors have an obligation of means towards their patients and not an obligation of result, with certain exceptions.
Therefore, if a doctor misdiagnoses a patient, the doctor will not automatically be held liable if the accepted medical rules are followed. Before concluding that a general practitioner or specialist is guilty of malpractice and taking legal action against them, it must be assessed whether any reasonably prudent, diligent and competent doctor would have behaved the same way under the circumstances.
Assessing the doctor’s liability in case of misdiagnosis
When assessing a case of medical misdiagnosis, the court must determine whether the doctor behaved in a careful and diligent way. The judge will then evaluate whether another doctor would have done the same if placed in that situation.
Misdiagnoses must be assessed on a case by case basis to determine whether they are faults the doctor is liable for. If the doctor acted in accordance with accepted medical practices, the misdiagnosis will not be considered a fault and the doctor will not be held liable.
If the opposite is true, the error will be considered a fault and the doctor will be responsible for the damages caused.
Misdiagnoses for which a doctor is not liable
If a patient presents symptoms that can be associated with several different conditions and the doctor makes an educated assessment and chooses a treatment that is ineffective, the doctor will not be held liable if the doctor acted with due diligence.
That means that if a health professional performs all necessary tests and exams on a patient before prescribing medication, that professional will not be held responsible if the treatment is ineffective or causes complications. The court will conclude that any reasonable doctor would have acted the same way and come to the same conclusion.
Misdiagnoses for which a doctor is liable
A member of the Collège des médecins du Québec may be held liable if the member failed to prescribe the required tests or evaluate the results in a timely manner. If the doctor failed to have the patient undergo the necessary tests or get a second opinion from a specialist if needed, the court could determine that there was negligence and therefore a fault.
Similarly, a doctor who does not keep informed of the latest medical developments and misdiagnoses a patient due to lack of awareness can be considered at fault.
How to get compensation for a medical misdiagnosis
As with most medical errors, doctors are liable if you or your loved one have been misdiagnosed, and you may be entitled to compensation for the damages suffered. In order to obtain compensation, you will need to file a civil lawsuit in court.
Who can take legal action after a misdiagnosis?
If the patient is alive, the patient can take legal action as the immediate victim of the medical error. Additionally, any person who suffered direct damages due to the error, whether related to the patient, can also take legal action against the responsible doctor.
If the patient is dead, heirs of the victim who have accepted their inheritances may take legal action on behalf of the deceased. Additionally, any person who suffered direct damages may take legal action to be compensated for damages caused by the death of the victim, even if the inheritance was refused.
Types of damages victims can be compensated for
Individuals who file a civil lawsuit due to a misdiagnosis may only claim personal damages suffered as a direct result of the error. For example, compensation includes loss of wages or expenses incurred due to the change in the patient’s condition. It also includes compensation for pain and suffering caused by the error.
If the error results in the patient’s death, their loved ones can claim funeral expenses. Additionally, if the deceased person was providing for family members, the family can claim an amount based on the economic support the deceased patient can no longer provide.
The patient’s heirs may also claim compensation on the victim’s behalf for the suffering experienced between the misdiagnosis and the death.
Time limit for taking legal action after a misdiagnosis
Victims of misdiagnosis (or their loved ones) have three years after the error to take legal action.
However, if the damages manifest gradually, the three years should be calculated from the date the damages first appeared .
MedLégal can help you get compensation for a misdiagnosis
Every doctor in Quebec has a duty to make the most accurate diagnosis possible. Any person who believes that their doctor is responsible for a misdiagnosis should file a complaint with the Collège des médecins, which will conduct an inquiry to determine whether the professional should be brought before a disciplinary committee.
However, it’s important to note that the purpose of the Collège des médecins is not to compensate victims for damages caused by the error, but to protect the public. The only way to obtain compensation is to file a civil lawsuit in court.
MedLégal’s medical liability service is specifically designed for healthcare network users who believe they have been victims of malpractice. Our comprehensive approach includes personalized legal advice and support throughout the claims process, from initial data collection to potential litigation.
Contact us to discuss your situation with a lawyer today.