What can my mother do about a misdiagnosis?

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What can my mother do about a misdiagnosis?

My mother has been experiencing bad eyesight for the past few years. Last year, she visited a local a optometrist for a checkup. Without any sort of diagnosis, the doctor decided that my mother is having a dry eye and treated her with some direct insertion into the eyeball which helps hydration. The doctor treated the same method a few times for a year, even though my mother claimed that the symptom was not improving at all. Still, no diagnosis was done. A few weeks ago, my mother went to a bigger medical facility instead. They ran diagnostics (MRI, etc.) and found out that a small tumor is placed right behind the eye nerve, causing the problem. Now my mother is consulting to find out the most suitable solution. Is there any chance that I can sue the optometrist?

Asked on August 21, 2014 under Malpractice Law, California

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 7 years ago | Contributor

If the delay in a proper diagnosis has caused your mother to endure greater pain or disability, to have a riskier prognosis, or to incure greater medical costs than she would have had the proper diagnosis been made, your mother--not you; it's her cause of action, since she's the person affected--may have a malpractice lawsuit. (The reason this matter is that if the wrong diagnosis didn't change anything or cause your mother any additional harm or costs, there's nothing to sue for--you can only recover compensation for actual losses, injuries, or costs.)

The issue will be whether the optometrist's diagnosis, even if wrong, was a reasonable one, that the average reasonable optometrist would have come to--or if it instead would have been reasonable for the optometrist to think something else might be going on and refer your mother to a clinic, hospital, or opthamalogist.

If the diagnosis was reasonable, then it is likely the optometrist did nothing wrong--the law does not require medical professionals (or any professionals) to be perfect, just to do what is reasonable and appropriate. If the diagnosis was not reasonable, then this may be a case of malpratice.

From what you write, it would seem to be worthwhile for your mother to consult with a medical malpractice attorney (many provide a free initial consultation; you can verify this before making an appointment) to review the situation in detail, to see if she has a case and what it might be worth.


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