Malpractice Overtreatment

The good news is a man is now lung cancer free! The bad news is he never had it. I’m Amy E. Feldman.

A medical center in the UK emailed a man who’d just had a biopsy telling him he had an aggressive form of lung cancer. And he was not alone, though—the center sent out 8,000 such messages to all of its patients—all, by mistake.  Oops.  Luckily, the man didn’t get unnecessary treatment, but it raises the legal question: can you sue if a mistake caused you to be overtreated rather than go untreated?

Well, not every mistake is malpractice but doctors do need to uphold the standard of care—to act in a way that one would expect of a competent, prudent doctor. So in the US, standard practice would be to confirm that the message was sent to the right patient. In a case in Iowa in which a man who had unnecessary surgery after he was given someone else’s diagnosis won 12 million dollars. A lawyer would tell you to see a lawyer if this happens. A friend would tell you to get a second opinion before treatment so you don’t have to.

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