California Professional Negligence Lawyers

DUTY TO REFER

Most states likewise require a physician to refer a patient to a specialist, if under the circumstances the standard of care would require the general practitioner to do so.

In California, for example, the following jury instruction may be given in certain instances:

  • “It is the duty of a physician who is a general practitioner to refer a patient to a specialist if under the circumstances of reasonably careful and skillful general practitioner would do so. If the physician fails to fulfill that duty and undertakes or continues to perform professional services without the aid of a specialist, it is the further duty of the physician to have the knowledge and skill ordinarily possessed and exercise the care and skill ordinarily used by reputable specialists in the same field and in the same or similar locality and under similar circumstances. A failure to fulfill any such duty is negligence.” [BAJI 6.04]

An Alaska case is illustrative of this point. In Steele v. United States, (D.C. Alaska 1978) 463 F.Supp. 321, the defendant, an optometrist, examined his patient and found evidence of possible disease of the eye. He decided that no serious disease was present and therefore did not refer the patient to an ophthalmologist for further examination. The disease of the eye worsened over time and eventually resulted in its removal.

The court found the optometrist breached his duty to the patient by failing to refer him to an ophthalmologist. Optometrists are trained to recognize symptoms of many diseases which may be discovered by eye examinations, but were not then permitted to undertake a definite diagnosis. This is the responsibility of a qualified medical doctor. Thus, the court found that an optometrist who failed to refer his patient to an ophthalmologist could be held liable for the injuries resulting from the delay of the diagnosis and institution of treatment.

If you or someone you know has been injured as the result of medical malpractice or professional negligence, you need the assistance of the Scarlett Law Group.
Call (415) 688-2176 today to speak with a California Personal Injury Attorney.

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