What is a doctor’s duty to follow-up with their patient after surgery?

UPDATED: Apr 11, 2013

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What is a doctor’s duty to follow-up with their patient after surgery?

I had surgery about 5 months ago and had a spinal cord stimulator implanted; my neurosurgeon has not seen me since she put me under for the surgery. She was then out on Administrative leave for my follow-up, I saw her NPA, which informed me she did not know much about the device. I have had problems since the surgery and was just referred to a different neurosurgeon in a different city, as my original neurosurgeon decided before she came off of leave that she would no longer deal with the device she has implanted. Didn’t she have an obligation to follow-up with my issues instead of just sending me to a neurosurgeon an hour and a half away? Is this negligence on her behalf?

Asked on April 11, 2013 under Malpractice Law, Virginia


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

It's only negligence if it is unreasonable carelessness or some other failure to provide the proper level  of medical care; whether it is that depends on the context and reason for her actions. For example, if the other doctor can provide better care (e.g. is more experienced or knowledgeable), or your first physician has valid personal or business reasons for reducing her workload or not dealing with certain patients (e.g. poor health; semi-retiring or slowing down; lacks the resources to provide the follow-up that you need), this would not be negligence or malpractice. Furthermore, even if it were negligence or malpractice if you have not suffered any actual injury from it (other than the inconvenience of travel), you would not be entitled to compensation.

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