Consulting Radiologist and Consulting Neurosurgeon Found To Have Only Limited Duty to Patient
The plaintiff was given an epidural steroid injection and awoke unable to breathe or move her extremities. An MRI of the cervical spine taken the same day was reviewed by a radiologist from his home via internet, who reported that it failed to reveal any evidence of an abnormal signal to the spinal cord suggestive of edema, cord contusion (bruising) or an infarct. The same radiologist reviewed a second MRI taken two days later which showed an infarction demonstrating a stroke of the spinal cord. Plaintiff sued the doctor who administered the injection, a radiologist and a neurosurgeon.
On June 15, 2016, a New York Appellate Court affirmed the decision of a Suffolk County Judge who dismissed the claims against the radiologist and neurosurgeon finding that their roles were limited and that they had no general duty of care to the patient/plaintiff. Plaintiff argued that the radiologist should have ordered a diffusion MRI when the standard MRI failed to explain the patient's paralysis. The Court held that the radiologist's only duty "was to interpret the MRI film and document his findings". The plaintiff also argued that the neurosurgeon should have examined the patient to ensure that the high dose steroids were being properly administered. (There was an alleged delay in administering steroids to reduce spinal cord swelling.) The Court found that the neurosurgeon had only been consulted to determine if neurosurgery was necessary and neither side claimed it was necessary. The plaintiff's experts did not deny that the first MRI was correctly interpreted and it was undisputed that radiological evidence of cord infarction may not present for more than 24 hours. Meade v Yland, Appellate Division, Second Department.
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