The value of medical tests in medical treatment seems obvious to most of us. In fact, most of us expect that a doctor will order tests to identify the cause of a problem or to confirm a diagnosis prior to treatment. For some of us, a visit to a doctor or an emergency room should include some kind of tests. Everything we have been taught about medicine and medical treatment underscores the value of medical tests.
How should we react when we seek medical treatment or diagnosis and no tests are ordered? Should we be grateful that we will be spared the cost, should we be relieved that tests are not necessary, or should we ask why no medical tests were ordered? Should we ask if this is medical malpractice?
A Case in Point
A 77-year-old man went to a hospital Emergency Room complaining of difficulty breathing. The Emergency Room physician ordered a D-Dimer test to rule out a pulmonary embolus. The test showed elevation, and a pulmonary embolus could not be ruled out. The man could not be evaluated with a CT scan due to kidney function levels.
His attending doctor, also his primary care physician, ordered a ventilation/perfusion scan to further evaluate the presence of an embolus. A few hours later, the physician was notified that this test could not be performed at this hospital. The attending physician concluded that it was best for his patient to keep the man at the hospital. The goal was to improve the man’s kidney function. He would then arrange for a CT scan at a later time.
The attending physician believed there was little likelihood of a pulmonary embolus. He thus decided that it was more important to restore kidney function. He ordered preventive anticoagulants and adjusted the dosage downward due to the patient’s kidney problems.
Over the next three days, the patient’s condition deteriorated. On the third day after admission, the physician transferred him to another hospital. The man died within an hour of arriving at the transfer hospital. An autopsy discovered a saddle pulmonary embolus.
The plaintiff’s (patient’s) medical malpractice claim was built on these key points:
- Standard of care experts argued that the standard of care demanded that the attending physician immediately arrange for the patient to be transferred upon notification that the test could not be performed.
- The plaintiff’s experts also argued that in light of these circumstances the attending physician should have ordered therapeutic anticoagulants rather than the lower preventive dosage.
- The plaintiff’s causation experts argued that if the standard of care had been followed, the pulmonary embolus would have been identified and treated effectively.
Experts for the attending physician attempted to refute these opinions.
The case was settled in mediation for $500,000 to the plaintiff’s heirs.
Could the Outcome Have Been Different?
It is not certain that the patient would have survived if the attending physician had followed the standard of care. We cannot imply that the case would have been handled differently if someone had asked more questions.
Standards of Care are established to protect patients and to assist medical care providers. We know the value of medical tests in medical treatment and in other areas. Although we may not know enough to challenge a treatment plan, we can ask questions. Questions can help us to understand the nature of the illness or injury, how our loved one is being treated, and if that treatment is adequate and meets the standard of care. Questions help us to understand what is happening, what the expected outcome will be, and if another treatment plan would be more effective or appropriate.
Call Altizer Law, P.C.
If you or a loved one has been hurt or harmed by a medical practitioner, you may be entitled to demand financial compensation for their hurts or harms. Standards of Care are a critical matter in such cases. Call Altizer Law, P.C., when you have questions about the correctness of the treatment provided to a loved one. For more than 30 years, Bettina Altizer and her team have been helping people to recover from medical malpractice and to make a new life. We know that rebuilding a life or starting a new life is difficult. We understand that a medical malpractice claim is about the money.