Legal Pearls: Is the Practitioner Liable When a Patient Fails to Show Up for a Test?
Dr F was a family medicine physician with a busy practice. A 17-year-old patient asked Dr F to fill out a college physical exam form. During the physical exam, a slight systolic murmur was noted.
Dr F’s office scheduled an echocardiogram, but the patient never showed up. Dr F’s office was notified that he did not keep his appointment, but no outreach was made to the patient, nor was anything documented in the patient’s record. While the patient continued to see Dr F for minor complaints and regular check-ups, no discussion of the missed echocardiogram or follow-up regarding the heart murmur were ever documented.
One morning, Dr F. was notified that the patient had died suddenly while playing football at school. He was 20 years old. An autopsy revealed hypertrophic cardiac myopathy. Soon after, he was served with papers notifying him that he was being sued by the young man’s parents.
(Discussion on next page)
Ann W. Latner, JD, is a freelance writer and attorney based in New York. She was formerly the director of periodicals at the American Pharmacists Association and editor of Pharmacy Times.