Verdict: Doctor is liable for diagnosis without specialist colleagues

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Doctors are liable for the wrong diagnosis without consulting a colleague

Doctors are liable for a misdiagnosis if they have failed to consult a colleague. In this context, the Medical Law Working Group of the German Lawyers' Association (DAV) refers to a ruling by the Higher Regional Court in Hamm, according to which the judges awarded the son 50,000 euros in inheritance for a patient who had died due to a misdiagnosis (file number: 3 U 122/12).

Doctors Should Have Called In Colleagues For Diagnosis An elderly lady was hospitalized in November 2005 with hemiplegia. There she suffered a seizure. The attending physicians then initiated a computed tomography (CT) scan, but made one crucial mistake: They refrained from consulting a neurologist for evaluating the images. In the following days, various neurological examinations were carried out on the patient. Ultimately, the doctors were only able to diagnose “locked-in syndrome”, which developed as a result of an undetected brainstem infarction. The woman was awake, could hear, smell and see, but showed no reaction except for the movement of the eyes. This condition continued until her death in 2006.

The woman's son then sued for damages. In the process, he was awarded a so-called inheritance allowance of EUR 50,000. According to the court, the treating doctors had failed to consult a neurologist on the patient's admission day. This prevented a specialist from recognizing the brainstem infarction and promptly initiating the correct treatment for the patient. According to experts, this failure could have caused severe paralysis and the death of the woman. "According to the other convincing statements by the neurological expert ... the result of the diagnosis made by a neurologist of a closure of the basilar artery would have been to quickly transfer the patient to a neurological clinic or a clinic with a stroke unit. A systemic or local lysis treatment with the very good chance of a better result for the patient would have taken place there within the still open 12-hour time window, ”says the reasoning for the judgment. (ag)

Image: Tim Reckmann /

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