Neurology is an important specialty of medicine whose main focus is on diagnosing and treating brain and nerve diseases where surgery is not an option. (Where surgery is involved, neurosurgeons, or sometimes orthopedic spine surgeons, are the relevant specialists.) Malpractice issues for neurologists mostly involve the failure to diagnose a serious condition in time to provide treatment before a serious brain or nervous system injury occurs.
For example, of the 17 cases with communication errors at their heart, the neurologist showed poor communications with other specialists in nine cases, with the patient or family in five situations, and with primary care doctors in the other three cases.
Dr. Glick and his colleagues also found that misdiagnosis occurred largely because of failure to have and to execute a well thought out “differential diagnosis” — a list of the possible causes of a patient’s symptoms and a priority plan for addressing the possibilities.
Professionalism was an undercurrent in some of the cases, as a recognized by an editorial accompanying the article in the journal Neurology. That includes issues of:
- Checking imaging studies personally rather than relying on a trainee doctor;
- Asking for help;
- Staying involved with a patient even without an obvious source of payment for the neurologist’s bill.
Patients, of course, expect neurologists and all medical doctors to follow these basic commandments of professionalism. When doctors don’t, and patients suffer a severe preventable injury, a malpractice claim could be justified.
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