Misdiagnosis: $3,000,000 Verdict for Patient Wrongly Labeled an Alcoholic and Not Treated for Unrelated Liver Disease

( Pittsburgh PA ) Recently, a study found that preventable, in-hospital medical errors kill an average of 195,000 Americans annually, injure even more and cost the public $6 billion in extra medical costs. [Source: PaTLA News, August 2, 2004 ]

Despite this shocking death and injury rate, advocates of “tort reform” are seeking to limit the liability of the medical community for its actions. In effect, this would be taking away from innocent victims the only recourse they have when misdiagnosis causes catastrophic harm. And it denies the public a means of discouraging negligent medical behavior and encouraging competency among medical practitioners.

A good example comes from a recent case in which Attorney Alan Perer successfully represented a federal court clerk whose doctor erroneously believed he was an alcoholic, and refused to treat him for a liver disease. Because of the misdiagnosis, our client would suffer irreversible liver damage.

“Tragically the doctor stuck to this misdiagnosis for over two years until it was too late,” said Perer. Our client was eventually diagnosed with cirrhosis, an end-stage liver disease that will likely lead to his death, unless he can obtain a liver transplant.

The jury deliberated for two hours before awarding $3,000,000 to our client. The jury found that the defendant doctor misdiagnosed the condition as alcoholism after tests in 1997 showed abnormal liver enzymes.

“Our client never had a drinking problem,” explained Perer, “the doctor made a fatal assumption that could have been alleviated by a quick, inexpensive medical test.”

How could such a critical mistake have been made? Or, perhaps more importantly, how can it be prevented in the future?

This much is certain, it will not be prevented if the medical community is not held responsible for its actions.

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