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Wisconsin couple wins medical malpractice suit

A Wisconsin couple has won a medical malpractice battle and has been awarded damages. The couple believes that the physician involved in the case improperly diagnosed the man with Bell 's palsy and did not inform them that a diagnostic test was available to rule out any stroke possibility.

Days after the diagnosis occurred, the man suffered a serious stroke which caused physical impairment and also affected his cognitive abilities. The couple filed a medical malpractice suit against the physician, the Physicians Insurance Company of Wisconsin (PIC) and the Wisconsin Injured Patients and Families Compensation Fund soon after.

A jury in the case found that the physician did not make a negligent diagnosis but found her negligent because she did not inform the couple of the possibility of undergoing a carotid ultrasound to rule out the possibility of a stroke. The couple was awarded damages of approximately $2 million. The PIC appealed and questioned the verdict, claiming that if the physician's diagnosis was not negligent, there should not be a duty to tell the patient about tests available for conditions that were unrelated to the final diagnosis.

The court agreed with the lower court and applied the "reasonable patient standard" which states that physicians are required to disclose information that would be necessary for people to make decisions in regard to treatment choice or diagnosis. While agreeing the PIC had raised a significant legal question about how much responsibility a physician had to inform a patient, the court was unwilling to apply the standard sought by PIC to this case. While not all medical malpractice cases are won, this Wisconsin couple successfully pursued a physician they believed to be negligent, and the verdict they obtained has now been upheld by the state's highest court.

Source: Legal Newsline, "Wis. SC upholds $2M award in med mal case," Jessica M. Karmasek, April 30, 2012

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