A common basis for malpractice lawsuits against emergency medicine physicians is failure to accurately diagnose the patient’s illness or injury, resulting in a delayed diagnosis that may have serious consequences. For example, an Arizona plaintiff’s attorney sent us the following case summary: “Plaintiff presented to the emergency room five times in about a seven-day period complaining of back pain. She has rheumatoid arthritis, and the physicians were attributing her pain to her arthritis. Her rheumatologist returned to town, and the plaintiff called to tell him what was going on. He immediately admitted her to the hospital, where it was determined that she had transverse myelitis at C3-C6.” We referred, and the attorney engaged, an emergency medicine physician to determine whether the defendant had breached the standard of care by failing to make the correct diagnosis. Of course, as in every delayed diagnosis case, the other question is whether earlier diagnosis and treatment would have resulted in a better outcome. We also referred a neurologist to the plaintiff’s attorney to address the causation issue.
The emergency medicine specialist we referred in this particular case is an associate clinical professor at a major midwestern university medical school. He is also the medical directory of the university health system’s poison control center, and we have referred him to many attorneys, both plaintiff and defense, to address toxicology-related issues. ER physicians are often double boarded in emergency medicine and medical toxicology, as they are the first line of treatment in acute poisoning cases. Vident Partners has access to emergency medicine specialists, many of whom are also medical toxicologists, all over the country.