Often, primary care physicians refer their patients to specialists to diagnose or treat an issue that requires specialized training and expertise that they may not have. If a doctor is part of a large health care system, they’ll probably refer patients to someone within that system. If they don’t, they may refer them to doctors they know by reputation and who have treated other patients of theirs. Patients are referred to everything from dermatologists to cardiologists to oncologists every day.
Sometimes, things go wrong with the specialist. They may fail to diagnose or misdiagnose a condition. They may botch a procedure or even surgery.
When a medical referral goes wrong, you need to understand your options
If a doctor to whom your primary care physician (or any physician) referred you has caused harm because of their negligence, error, poor judgment or another issue, you may well be able to take legal action against them for malpractice. But what about the doctor who you referred you to them? Do they have any legal culpability?
There is something in the law called “negligent referral.” It typically applies when a doctor didn’t take the appropriate care in referring a patient to a competent physician. It can also apply when a doctor tries to treat a condition for which he should have referred a patient to a specialist.
It can be difficult to prove that a referring doctor is responsible for the malpractice of another medical professional to whom they referred a patient. A plaintiff would need to show that the referring doctor knew (or should have known) that there was a problem with the other physician. For example, did the referring doctor know that the specialist was already facing multiple lawsuits from other patients? Were they aware that this specialist had a serious drinking problem that they were trying to keep a secret? If they knew something like that, it’s possible that they could face a negligent referral claim.
Don’t guess about your rights
The most important thing is to first determine if you can hold the doctor who caused harm liable for malpractice. Then you can explore the possibility of taking legal action against the referring doctor. It’s crucial to have experienced legal guidance to determine how to proceed.