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Doctors risk medical malpractice by failing to screen newborns

Many parents in New York are justifiably hypervigilant when it comes to the health of their children. When parents notice that something isn't right with their children, they rely on pediatricians to find out what is wrong or to put their minds at ease. However, all too often, doctors may neglect to follow up with their most important diagnostic tool: lab results. When a doctor misplaces or forgets about a patient's test results, the doctor may fail to diagnose a treatable illness, leaving parents to consider medical malpractice claims.

Lab results assist doctors in diagnoses about 70 percent of the time. Many states require newborns to undergo newborn screening, a blood test to diagnose dozens of disorders and conditions, many of which are treatable if caught early. However, some of those disorders can cause serious illness, developmental delays and even death if left untreated. The problem arises when doctors order the tests but fail to follow up on the results.

A doctor may not look at the test results until the child's next appointment, which may allow precious time to pass without treatment. Some doctors tell parents to contact them if they do not receive a call with test results. However, many parents assume that if they don't receive a call, the test results were negative.

The American Academy of Pediatrics urges pediatricians to establish procedures for ordering appropriate tests and reviewing their results in a timely manner. Medical records should track that parents were notified of any test results and that referral or treatment was recommended. Doing so not only helps doctors avoid malpractice suits but also saves the lives and health of children.

When New York parents watch their children suffer from preventable illnesses, they may wonder if they have any recourse to justice. Doctors who fail to order the required newborn tests or fail to follow up with the results may be acting negligently. By discussing their situations with experienced medical malpractice attorneys, parents can learn their options for seeking compensation in civil courts.

Source: aappublications.org, "Set up procedures to ensure lab results don't fall through the cracks", Susan M. Scott, M.D., J.D., FAAP, May 25, 2017

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