Beersheba's Soroka Medical Center held liable for misdiagnosis

Court requires higher standard of medical care than currently exists - judges decide what is reasonable care from a doctor, not medical experts.

Doctors perform surgery (generic) R 370 (photo credit: REUTERS/Swoan Parker)
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.
He claimed suffering and permanent post-surgery damage because of the delay in a correct diagnosis.
The two experts had said that most emergency room doctors would or could easily have missed the fracture based on the available X-rays taken.
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 seasoned orthopedists.
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 shoulder.
The court responded firmly that it was the court, not doctors, that decide what is the standard for a reasonable doctor to perform at.
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.
At the 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.