In what will be a drastic change in Minnesota law, that state’s Supreme Court recently ruled to allow a patient to recover damages for medical malpractice where the doctor’s negligence caused the patient to have a reduced chance of recovery from a disease or illness.  Previously in Minnesota, a patient could only recover for medical malpractice if they could prove that the doctor’s negligence actually caused them injury.  In adopting the “loss of chance” doctrine, the Minnesota Supreme Court recognized that a patient also suffers real injury when a doctor’s negligence reduces their chance of recovery or survival for a disease or condition they already had.  Now, in Minnesota, such doctors can be held responsible for the value of that lost chance.
The “loss of chance” doctrine is similar to the “increased risk of harm” standard, utilized in Pennsylvania.  In Pennsylvania, a negligent doctor is liable to a patient where the doctor’s negligence increased the risk of harm to the patient.  In the case of diseases, such as cancer, the doctor did not cause the disease.  However, negligence by a doctor – such as failing to diagnose the disease in a timely manner, or incorrectly treating the disease – can reduce or, in many cases, eliminate altogether, a patient’s chances of survival.  In such situations, negligent doctors are liable to the patient for increased risk of harm their negligence brought about.
If you believe that you or a loved on has been the victim of medical malpractice, contact the medical malpractice attorneys at Stark & Stark for a consultation.