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Lawsuit settled after HIV misdiagnosis by doctor

When a doctor fails to listen and to follow standard procedures, it can result in serious harm to a patient, or even loss of life. Readers in Houston, Texas, should be aware that cases of misdiagnosis may occur when a doctor fails to admit a patient for emergency treatment, fails to diagnose and treat a heart attack, stroke or other ailment in a timely fashion, or fails to consider or diagnose known or probable complications. Recently, a $20 million lawsuit involving a misdiagnosis of HIV settled after seven years in court.

The misdiagnosis occurred as a result of a physician failing to carefully review the patient's chart. The chart contained incorrect information, which indicated that the patient was HIV-positive, and the doctor counseled him to that effect. The patient became depressed, quit his job and began using drugs and alcohol. He was twice committed to psychiatric wards due to suicidal thoughts.

Although this happened somewhere else, a misdiagnosis can happen just as easily in Texas. They can cause substantial harm to patients and their families. When a person dies or is harmed as a result of a fatal misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis by a negligent physician, financial compensation for medical negligence is available under Texas law. Surviving patients or families of the deceased can pursue a medical malpractice lawsuit against a physician or hospital to obtain compensation for damages sustained as a result of misdiagnosis, delayed treatment or other negligence in a patient's care and treatment.

To prevent future harm and loss of life to those in need of medical care, it is important that physicians are held accountable when they disregard a patient's symptoms or fail to make a proper diagnosis. Patients should also be aware of their rights to get more information from their doctor.

Source: The Washington Post, "Suit over wrong HIV diagnosis settled between ex-patient, Whitman-Walker," Keith L. Alexander, Aug. 10, 2012

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