Does my father have a case against the doctor regarding a misdiagnosis?

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Does my father have a case against the doctor regarding a misdiagnosis?

My father went to see his primary care physician for a severe headache on one side of his head, mainly behind his ear. She gave him a cursory check and sent him home with diagnosis of tension headache and some pain killers. Days later he went to urgent care for the same pain and was sent to a nearby hospital for a brain scan. At that hospital they diagnosed him with shingles around his ear and back of head. He was given antibiotics and different pain meds. Days later when the antibiotic ran out and he had pain he called his clinic and explained the situation and needed to see his doctor. They told him that they’d call him back in 5 minutes but never did, this was a Saturday and he couldn’t call back til Monday. They set him up with an apt for the following Monday. Then, 5 days later, he started feeling ill and went back to urgent care, he collapsed at the entrance of the clinic and they sent him to the ER with a dangerously low blood pressure. It turns out that he was going into septic shock because the shingles caused an ear infection. Further, he basically had this infection since he first visited his PCP and she didn’t bother to check for it. He was hospitalized for 3 days and he called the clinic to get an appointment saying he almost died because he couldn’t get adequate care. They told him that they could give him an appointment for the following week. Now he;s going to be stuck with all these medical bills due to the doctor’s negligence. Does he have grounds to sue the physician or the clinic?

Asked on April 1, 2019 under Malpractice Law, California

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 2 years ago | Contributor

It depends on whether, based on the symptoms he showed and reported when he went to the PCP, that her diagnosis, even if wrong, was reasonable. The law neither requires doctors to be 100% correct nor to check for all possible causes; if they come to a reasonable diagnosis based on what they see, what the patient reports, etc. they have not committed malpractice, even if they later turn out to be wrong. So for your father to have a viable case, there would have to be some medical expert testimony (e.g. the opinion of another physician or physicians who are willing to testify in court) that what the PCP did was careless and that under those circumstances, a reasonable doctor would have spotted and taken action against the infection.


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