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Doctor's confusion of two patients' records is malpractice, not ordinary negligence

The family of Samuel Sturgill sued Dr. Mayur Patel and Henry Ford Hospital after Patel apparently confused Sturgill's cancer treatment records with the records of another patient.  When Sturgill was {mistakenly] informed that his cancer had spread to his kidney and lungs and invited to the hospital to discuss hospice arrangements, his family was told that the records were "screwed up" and that he was cancer-free.

They later sued Patel and Henry Ford for ordinary negligence but not for malpractice.  The Defendants argued that the claim sounded in malpractice because it arose in the context of a professional relationship and partook of medical judgment--even though the error was simply a confusion of the identity of two patients.  The trial court scoffed at this argument and denied the motion, but the Court of Appeals, Wilder, Whitbeck and Fort Hood, reversed.  In essence, they looked past the fact that confusing patient records does not involve medical judgment and based their decision on the fact that it requires  medical judgment to assess the impact of the Defendant's negligence.   Unfortunately, this holding confuses professional duty issues with causation proofs required to show damages.  By the logic of this holding, a doctor who decided to administer a small dose of poison, having no medical purpose, to his patient would be responsible only in malpractice, because it might require medical analysis to determine whether the dosage was great enough to cause harm.
Thompson O’Neil, P.C.
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Traverse City, Michigan 49684
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