Ruling could prompt more malpractice suits for emotional distress

In Illinois, patients and loved ones of individuals who have suffered serious health complications, injuries or death as a result of a medical professional’s negligence may choose to file a medical malpractice lawsuit against the doctor in order to receive compensation and justice for one’s physical injuries or loss of life.

It is not uncommon for these victims to seek compensation for emotional pain and suffering in addition to economic damages since these types of situations can be quite devastating and traumatic for patients and their families. But can patients sue doctors or Chicago hospitals for negligence even if they were never physically injured by a medical professional’s mistake?

This week, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania made a landmark ruling in a medical malpractice case that some believe could provoke a wave of similar lawsuits against doctors, hospitals and nursing homes across the U.S. On Monday, the superior court ruled in favor of a woman who claimed that her doctor had failed to warn her about her baby’s abnormalities when the child was born, causing her to suffer severe emotional distress.

The mother and child did not suffer any physical injuries as a result of negligence, but the lawsuit argued that because the doctor had provided the woman with inaccurate information about her unborn child, she was not emotionally prepared when she discovered that her child had numerous deformities. Prior to the child’s birth, the doctor performed a pelvic ultrasound and assured the woman that her child looked healthy and normal.

According to the lawsuit, the woman suffered from grief, rage, nausea, hysteria, nervousness, sleeplessness, nightmares and anxiety after her child was born with no arms below his elbows, no legs below his knees, delayed growth of the jaw and several other abnormalities.

The lawsuit argued that quality medical care provided by healthcare professionals certainly involves adequate treatment and proper diagnoses, but it also means that doctors must provide patients with accurate information. Failing to provide patients with accurate information could lead to causing patients to suffer emotional distress and trauma. In this case, the Supreme Court agreed.

Source: Medical Daily, “Doctors Can Be Sued for Emotional Distress Even Without Physical Negligence,” Christine Hsu, Jan. 31, 2012

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