Every case is different. It also depends who you ask. The more you try to rationalize on how a physician is liable for the sake of pointing fingers the more touch you lose of the issue at large. We are living in an era where medicine continues evolving on a day to day basis. Do I believe physicians should be held liable when accountable? Absolutely. If an event or early detection was unforeseeable, I do not believe a physician should be at fault. As previously stated, every case is different.
In order to properly diagnosed a patient, a physician must follow a protocol to make that diagnosis. The patient can have all the signs and symptoms of a particular condition, but then again differential diagnosis’ look very similar to one another hence the term “differential diagnosis.” A physician can never be 100% sure until appropriate diagnostics are completed. Nevertheless, there are patients that are dishonest with their physician. A 31 year old man comes to your office for an annual check-up. You take their vitals and discover the patient is hypertensive. Upon discovery, you proceed with the patients full history and current information. The physician then concludes that this patient has no familial history of cardiovascular diseases, maintains a proper diet, maintains a healthy fitness lifestyle, etc. You do not see why this patient is hypertensive. The physician then proceeds with prescribing a beta blocker to this patient. A week later the patient dies due to a hypertensive crisis. What happened? The patient never disclosed their cocaine abuse to their physician and the physician never ordered the labs to test for cocaine and other drug abuse. Should the physician be held liable? I would think so. A differential diagnosis must be found and all other possible conditions ruled out. Although the patients never fully disclososed their lifestyle, the physician should have order the appropriate test given the patient’s history.
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In the case referenced in the textbook, the loss of chance policy would be very beneficial to both parties. It would ensure that the physician has done everything in their power to find a solution to the cause. Essentially, the physician must dig deeper and exclude every differential diagnosis possible until a solution is found.