Can a Doctor Be Held Liable for Medical Malpractice for a Misdiagnosis of COVID-19?

Nursing Home Liability for COVID-19 Outbreaks
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Since March 20, the world has been reeling from the sudden quarantines as the COVID-19 pandemic caused widespread panic over an unseen enemy. Never before have we seen toilet paper and rubbing alcohol fly off shelves in the way that they did a few months ago. The fear of this novel virus is evident in the precautionary measures taken by entire communities that have isolated themselves, businesses that have closed, and schools that have been suspended in a concerted effort to stop the virus from spreading further.

The number of COVID-19 cases has swollen to 2,356,841 since then, and the strain on our healthcare system is as unending as it is intense. And it’s during these times that an error such as a misdiagnosis could spell disaster, not just for the patient themself, but also for the people that patient is in direct contact with.

Now, the question shall be raised.

Can A Doctor Be Held Liable For Medical Malpractice For A Misdiagnosis?

The quick answer is yes, a doctor can indeed be held liable for medical malpractice for misdiagnosing any illness, however, we must qualify that it is not the act of misdiagnosis itself that causes the liability, but rather, the circumstances surrounding the misdiagnosis. In order to fully understand this, we have to refer to the basic definition of medical malpractice.

Medical Malpractice defined

Medical malpractice occurs when medical personnel cause an injury to a patient through a negligent act or omission.These acts may be the result of an erroneous diagnosis, treatment, or aftercare procedure. According to this Medical Malpractice Lawyer in Washington, DC, for an act to be deemed medical malpractice, a claim must have these characteristics:

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  • Duty of care existed
  • Violation of Standard of Care/Duty of care
  • The Injury Must Have Been Caused By The Negligent Act
  • The Injury Must Have Caused Significant Damages

We won’t go into detail about these characteristics but we’re going to put a lot of emphasis on the fact that doctors sometimes make mistakes but it takes a lot more than that to be considered malpractice.

The negligent act must have been contrary to what is accepted as standard procedure by the medical community. Misdiagnosis is one of these negligent acts, but we also have to treat this on a per case basis.

In this instance, the illness involved, COVID-19, shares many of its symptoms with the common flu. This means that the Coronavirus can easily be misdiagnosed for medical conditions that have flu-like symptoms such as sepsis, bronchitis, pneumonia, SARS, Ebola, HIV, and many more. Misdiagnosing COVID-19 does not automatically impute medical malpractice liabilities upon a doctor as long as the doctor conducted the diagnosis according to the standards set by the medical community.

Finally, let us not forget that our medical professionals are at the forefront of our battle with the pandemic. While it is indeed their professional duty to protect our health, we, in turn, must protect them from undue persecution. Laws are in place to protect both the patient and the physician.

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