There are many different types of doctors who practice in the field of medicine. While some are general practitioners, others are specialists in a specific area. When a general practitioner comes across a condition or symptom they are unfamiliar with or do not have the knowledge to treat, they can refer the patient to a specialist who does. If the doctor fails to do so and a patient suffers further as a result, they could be held liable for medical malpractice. Continue reading below to learn more.
When is a Doctor Referral Necessary?
Doctor-patient relationships require the patient to be treated until one of two things happens:
- The treatment is no longer needed
- The patient ends the doctor-patient relationship
It is because of this that if a doctor does not have the means to treat their patient, they are legally required to refer them to a doctor who can. This is required in accordance with the “standard of care,” determined by the actions of other doctors with similar qualifications in the same situation. If another doctor would have referred the patient, they are required to do so themselves. Failure to do so, they can be held liable for any suffering that happens as a result.
How Can the Failure to Refer Harm a Patient?
If a doctor does not uphold their duty to refer a patient in need, it can cause them further suffering. Some examples of this are as follows:
- The condition or illness worsening to the point of being irreversible
- A misdiagnosis of a condition or illness due to insufficient knowledge
- A delayed or missed diagnosis caused by the failure to refer a patient
The failure to refer can sometimes even cause patient fatalities as well. In these situations, family of the patient may fight to recover compensation for any medical expenses, lost income, pain, and suffering that was caused.
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