The Top Two Reasons People Want to Sue Their Doctors

patient clutching his chest after getting bad news from his doctor

Canadians count on stellar medical care for themselves and their families. When we are sick or in need of surgery, we seek out and rely upon the expert care of medical professionals. But, what if the standard of that care is lacking? What if a mistake is made? What if the doctor was negligent in their care? In those instances, patients can be left with devastating injuries and families can be left wondering what happened to their loved ones.

Many understand that the medical field is incredibly complex, and outcomes are dependent on a wide range of variables. In this field, mistakes and oversights happen. While not every mistake qualifies as a medical malpractice incident, patients who have experienced catastrophic negative outcomes, feel like they’ve been ignored, or feel like they don’t have the answers they need often seek out legal counsel to help them ascertain what happened to them and obtain justice.

The relationship between a doctor and their patient is important. When patients entrust a physician with their bodies, they also entrust them with their careers, families, goals, and dreams. The turmoil and upheaval that results from medical malpractice can be far-reaching and long-lasting, affecting one’s social, family, and work life. When the trust between a patient and their physician is broken, patients turn to lawyers to help them seek compensation, uncover answers, and hold medical professionals accountable. In this blog, we’ll discuss the two main reasons why patients sue their doctors.

1. A Concern That the Standard of Care Was Not Met

The standard of care is the proper and appropriate care a patient should expect from their doctor. The expectation is that a doctor possesses a reasonable degree of skill and knowledge and must utilize that skill and knowledge to provide a reasonable degree of care. While a physician is not held to perfection, they do have a legal duty to provide medical services that meet or exceed the standard of care. If a doctor fails to meet the standard of care, patients may suffer, and incidents of medical malpractice may occur. When legally determining if the standard was met, the court considers the unique circumstances of the case and makes a fact-based determination. In order to accomplish that, experts and their testimony is relied upon heavily.

Failure to meet the standard of care is a common reason why patients sue their doctors and encompasses many different types of mistakes and errors a doctor could potentially make. A doctor can fail to meet the standard of care when they fail to provide a timely or accurate diagnosis and treatment, incorrectly perform a procedure, fail to adhere to established medical protocols and procedures, or fail to properly request and obtain informed consent from the patient. Let’s examine some of the specific instances where doctors fail to meet the standard of care:

Failing to Obtain Informed Consent

Doctors are required to obtain informed consent for every patient encounter. When this pertains to a doctor’s office visit, the doctor must provide details of their assessment of the patient, the diagnosis, and the treatment they recommend. This becomes even more critical when the treatment or treatments recommended involve invasive procedures that present a myriad of potential complications or side effects. Patients should expect that their doctor takes the time to explain the care they want to provide to the patient. This includes all potential risks and benefits associated with the care and any alternative treatments or other options the patient has. Patients also expect their doctor to answer questions. We often hear from callers to our law firm that their frustration surrounding a negative medical outcome stems from a feeling that they were not provided with enough information about their treatment before it happened or that they felt like the doctor was dismissive of them. Essentially, they didn’t feel heard. We encourage all patients to hold their doctors accountable by asking questions, telling them what they want to know, and ensuring they’re comfortable with the information with which they’ve been provided.

Medication Errors

Medical treatment often involves pharmaceutical therapy. However, when a patient is prescribed the wrong medication, the wrong dosage of the right medication, or an unsafe combination of medications, the patient may encounter serious health implications. When prescribing medication, a doctor has to be cognizant of other medications the patient is taking and any allergies the patient may have.

Surgical Mistakes

While not all surgical mistakes made by a physician are life-threatening or catastrophic, even minor mistakes can have a serious impact on a patient’s life and livelihood. Common instances of surgical mistakes made by doctors include:

  • Operating on the wrong part of the body
  • Leaving surgical equipment inside the body after surgery
  • Preventable postoperative infections
  • Damage to organs during sedation
  • Mistakes made during the administration of anesthesia

Emergency Room Mistakes

Emergency rooms can be chaotic, and important medical decisions must be made incredibly quickly. Emergency room physicians are forced to address a huge variety of illnesses, ailments, and injuries, all of which vary greatly in severity. In this atmosphere, mistakes can be made that can impact a patient’s life. Mistakes made by doctors in emergency rooms can include:

  • Medication errors
  • Failure to provide a correct or timely diagnosis
  • Failure to provide timely treatment
  • Failure to correctly identify a patient (i.e., mixing up patient records)

Failure to Refer to a Specialist

Because the field of medicine is so vast and complicated, medical specialists are necessary to provide quality treatment to patients. However, in some cases, a doctor may fail to refer their patient to a specialist. This occurs most often in rural areas where access to well-equipped hospitals and extensively trained specialists is difficult or altogether lacking. Sometimes a doctor is simply trying to help their patient avoid long commutes or delays. It can be dangerous though for a general practitioner or family physician to attempt to take on medical procedures, treatments, or diagnoses for which they have not been specifically trained. In these instances, a patient may suffer by not receiving care from a proper medical specialist.

Missed or Delayed Diagnosis

A missed or delayed diagnosis can have serious ramifications for patients. These cases can result in further, uninhibited advancement of an illness or injury or incorrect medical treatment. A missed diagnosis is when an incorrect diagnosis is given to a patient. In these instances, improper or unnecessary medical care or treatment may be administered to a patient. This could further delay a correct diagnosis, cause additional health issues, or leave a true illness or injury completely overlooked. A delayed diagnosis occurs when a doctor provides an accurate diagnosis but not within a reasonable timeframe. Delays in ordering tests or receiving results can contribute to delayed diagnosis. In both cases, patients are left to suffer and endure the consequences, which can be serious.

It takes time and potentially multiple tests for a doctor to thoroughly evaluate a patient. The perception of a missed or delayed diagnosis can be mitigated when the doctor effectively communicates expectations to the patient. Often patients who are left feeling like test results are taking an inordinately long time to be reported begin to develop a perception of a delayed diagnosis, even if that’s not actually the case. Patients who feel like their doctor is really listening to them, trying every available option to determine what’s wrong, and relaying and discussing the results of tests as soon as they are available are much more likely to remain confident and trusting in their physician.

2. To Hold Doctors Accountable

The second most common reason patients sue their doctors is to hold doctors accountable for their negligence. Patients demand accountability when they believe a doctor has committed medical malpractice. Many patients name the desire to prevent and protect others from a negligent doctor as a primary reason for filing a medical malpractice lawsuit. They don’t want what happened to them to happen to anyone else. Their ultimate aim is to demand a higher standard of care. In their quest for accountability, they may want the physician to be more honest about what happened, to truly gain an appreciation for the severity of the injuries the patient has suffered, and to get some kind of an assurance that this type of incident won’t happen again.

Another element of holding physicians accountable is a need to receive compensation for what they endured and the losses they suffered. Many victims of medical malpractice miss work, lose their jobs, or become permanently disabled. Catastrophic injuries can take huge financial tolls on patients and their families. A medical malpractice lawsuit provides a means by which a patient can obtain compensation for their injuries and financial losses. It’s a critical necessity for many victims of medical malpractice.

Your Role as a Patient

There are steps you can take to mitigate common healthcare-related issues and ensure that you have a clear understanding of the care and treatment you are receiving. Here are some tips you can use in your interactions with your medical providers:

  • Ask lots of questions
  • Don’t feel intimidated by a doctor
  • Ensure you have a clear understanding of the treatment plan before agreeing to it
  • If possible and if you’re comfortable with it, consider bringing someone else with you to appointments to help absorb the information being provided and ask questions
  • Be honest and candid with your doctor about how you’re feeling before, during, and after treatment
  • Don’t be afraid to find another doctor or seek out a second opinion

Contact a Medical Malpractice Lawyer

We place an incredible amount of trust in our doctors and expect them to diagnose injuries and illnesses and provide the right treatment. Unfortunately, tens of thousands of patients are killed and many more are injured each year as a result of a physician’s negligence. If you have suffered at the hands of a negligent doctor, contact the Klein Lawyers’ medical malpractice team today. The team at Klein Lawyers is here to help you and your family recover the compensation you deserve for the losses caused by a doctor who has committed medical malpractice. Our law firm has extensive experience handling complex litigation, and we will draw upon our knowledge, resources, access to experts, and determination to build a claim for damages on your behalf.

If you suspect that you or a family member’s doctor made a mistake that caused serious harm, we can help. For more than 20 years, our team has been advocating on behalf of clients in a wide range of complex legal matters.

Contact Klein Lawyers at (604) 874-7171 today for a free consultation with a Vancouver medical malpractice lawyer. We serve clients throughout British Columbia. There’s no obligation, and it’s completely confidential. We’re here to help victims of medical malpractice receive the justice they deserve.