Doctors perform surgery (generic) R 370.
(photo credit: REUTERS/Swoan Parker)
The Beersheba Magistrate’s Court recently rejected the opinions of two expert
orthopedists and held the Soroka University Medical Center liable for NIS 10,000
in damages for a patient’s misdiagnosed backshoulder fracture, declaring that a
“reasonable doctor” must be better than what the experts said patients can
expect in a decision earlier this week.
The court ruling was notable as
it explicitly stated judiciaries were creating a “higher standard” for doctors
to perform at than what testimony by expert orthopedists said currently exists
in most emergency rooms across the country.
The plaintiff’s basis for
damages was that on June 23, 2000, he was examined, X-rayed and told by the
Emergency Room doctor that there was no fracture.
Nearly an entire month
later and after significant suffering and aggravation of his shoulder injury, on
July 22, 2000, the man underwent surgery, including general anesthesia, for the
fracture which the doctor had said was not a problem.
suffering and permanent post-surgery damage because of the delay in a correct
The two experts had said that most emergency room doctors
would or could easily have missed the fracture based on the available X-rays
They explained that in the current situation, for better or worse,
doctors learning a specialty are reading such X-rays in the ER and are not yet
Next, they added that the specific fracture was
difficult to catch on the X-ray, since most shoulder fractures are in the front
of the shoulder, and the fracture in question was in the back of the
The court responded firmly that it was the court, not doctors,
that decide what is the standard for a reasonable doctor to perform
It said that society could not afford such a low standard in that
simply because many ERs have junior doctors, patients must tolerate frequent
misdiagnoses, which the two experts said are rampant.
Rather, the court
said that the hospital as a whole must fill in the gaps. If the senior doctors
know that their junior colleagues miss a certain number of issues, they must
review the junior doctors’ work within a reasonable amount of time to ensure
that a full month does not pass for patients like the plaintiff.
same time, the court rejected giving the plaintiff the higher damages he sought,
noting that even a month is not a substantial amount of time and that other
factors besides the hospital’s negligence and the delay likely contributed to
the plaintiffs’ suffering and complications.