Can I get sued by a patient I never treated?

Health care practitioners and facilities get sued fairly often. Because of this, many have come to see it as a normal hazard of their careers. In most of these instances, health care professionals face allegations of making errors during treatment that caused injury or death. What happens when the doctor never treated the patient, though? Can you still get sued? 

The American Medical Association confirms that it is becoming more common for doctors to get sued by patients that they did not treat. How does this happen? In one specific case cited by the AMA, the court determined that even though the doctor never reviewed the patient’s records, examined the patient or consulted with her, she still fell within his duty of care. 

Some doctors also serve a gatekeeping role at the facilities they work at. They might decide key decisions, such as a patient’s eligibility for surgery or whether the patient should get admitted. Doctors often make these decisions based on information from other health care professionals, such as a nurse, but courts may still hold them liable for that decision. 

Not mentioned in the article but also a potential factor is when a doctor may simply not get around to treating a patient. This might happen if hospital records got lost, schedule changes did not go smoothly or the facility got overrun with new cases from a crash or viral outbreak. In these cases, patients or their survivors may attempt to seek a medical malpractice suit based on “failure to treat.” 

Whether patients can win these cases may depend on any precedents in specific states, how the case gets presented and the judge’s opinion. Even so, the AMA confirms that more of these cases continue to emerge across the country. 

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