You’re here, so you’re wondering if you can sue your doctor for lying. Here’s the simple answer –
It’s definitely possible. If your doctor’s negligent lie leads to substantial health complications, and you can prove it, yes. You can probably file a medical malpractice lawsuit against the doctor. (There’s some other details that need to line up as well, like the statute of limitations.) For a more detailed answer, read on.
Trust. It’s an essential part of a doctor–patient relationship. You would think your doctor would never lie to you. Or…would they? If you discover a blatant lie, you might wonder if doctors are legally bound to always tell the truth. You might even ask, “Can I sue a doctor for lying?”
There’s good news and bad news. The good news is that yes, doctors should maintain confidentiality and trust with patients. It’s their duty according to the law. Now here’s the bad news. Brace yourself! In certain situations, it may be legal for doctors to lie.
Doctors Lying To Patients: When Is It Ok?
You might be thinking, “Doctors lying to patients should never be ok!” And you’re right–it’s not ok when those lies harm their patients.
But have you ever heard of a “little white lie”? “White lies” are non-truths that don’t harm anyone. Some believe white lies are morally wrong. Others think they don’t count as lies.
But in a doctor’s case, the law says medical practitioners can fib now and then if it’s no harm, no foul. For example, they might lie in one of these circumstances:
- Describing their patient’s condition in positive terms, when the outlook is actually bleeker. They might do this so that a patient doesn’t give up on treatment.
- Reassuring a patient or their family that “everything will be ok.”
- Saying that there won’t be any pain, or that the pain will be minimal.
- Prescribing a placebo. (Such as a sugar pill or other substance that contains no medicine). One study showed that one in two American doctors say they prescribe placebos to their patients.
You can’t sue a doctor for assuring you that “everything will be ok”, when everything turns out not-ok. So when can I sue a doctor for lying, you might ask? Keep reading to find out.
When Can I Sue A Doctor For Lying?
Your doctor owes you “duty of care” by law. If they breach this duty, you may have the right to sue. But what does “duty of care” mean?
It means that your doctor owes you treatment to the degree you’d expect from a competent physician in similar circumstances. This treatment includes something called informed consent.
Informed consent means the doctor provides you with all needed information before you say “yes” to a certain treatment or surgery. This is where doctors lying to patients could come into play.
The doctor must give you detailed information about your condition, so you can permit treatment or additional treatment. But if a doctor lies, it may affect your right to give informed consent. And this is considered a breach of duty of care.
For example, a physician might tell a patient, “I’m going to perform X procedure on you. These are the pros and cons. Do you consent?” The patient consents, but the doctor swaps procedure X for procedure Y. But the patient didn’t consent to procedure Y. So that could count as a lie, because the doctor wasn’t forthcoming about which treatment he was going to provide. The patient could sue the doctor for medical malpractice.
Here are other examples of when you might be able to sue a doctor for lying:
- A doctor lied about your prognosis.
- The physician withheld your correct diagnosis from you.
- Doctors weren’t truthful about all your treatment options.
- The doctor leaves out important information when discussing your diagnosis or treatment.
Any lie that leads to harm can be fair game for a lawsuit. The type of lawsuit may vary. If you believe your doctor lied to you, contact Hampton & King right away for a free evaluation of your case. We work on a contingency fee basis.
A Disgusting Example Of Doctors Lying To Patients
Here’s a case that reads like something out of a soap opera. A woman in New York recently discovered that a fertility doctor used his own sperm to impregnate her mother back in the 1980s. Dr. Morris Wortman had told the woman’s mother that the sperm came from a medical student. But that was a lie–and he kept it a secret for decades.
If you thought that was bad, the story gets much worse. This doctor–in reality the woman’s father–became her gynecologist. It wasn’t until the woman took a DNA test like the ones provided by Ancestry.com that she found out the truth. The test revealed that not only was she related to the doctor, but she also had at least nine siblings.
Sadly, the woman’s family had held Wortman in the utmost respect for helping the woman’s mother get pregnant. But the negligent doctor had committed one of the most disrespectful and grotesque acts possible. Now, she has filed a lawsuit against him.
The woman’s lawsuit says Wortman’s conduct “shocks the conscience”. While treating the woman, he performed breast and pelvic exams on her. Sometimes he asked her personal questions about her life and family. At one point he even told her, “You’re a really good kid, such a good kid.” The suit accuses Wortman of medical malpractice, battery, infliction of emotional distress, negligence, fraud and lack of informed consent.
Although we wish we could tell you this is an isolated case, it isn’t. As home DNA testing gets more popular, cases of doctors lying to patients about the origins of sperm donations are popping up like weeds in a neglected garden. Many of these cases happened in the 1970s and 80s. Back then, sperm donations weren’t regulated as much as they are today.
Can I Sue A Doctor For Lying If Many Years Have Passed?
They say the truth always comes to light. But sometimes it can take years. In Dr. Wortman’s case, no one discovered his disgusting secret until decades later. For this reason, he may not face criminal charges. The statute of limitations passed many years earlier.
You might be wondering, “Can I sue a doctor for lying, if I just found out about it?” The answer is complicated. If the statute of limitations has passed, it might be impossible.
But the statute of limitations varies by state. Many states put a cap on suing for medical malpractice just 2-3 years after it happens. Other states allow you to file 2-3 years after you find out that medical malpractice has occurred. Consult with an attorney in your state for more information.
What To Do When Your Doctor Lies
In cases of doctors lying to patients, “time is of the essence”, as the saying goes. Don’t wait to jump into action. But what actions should you take?
If you find out your doctor told a fib or omitted important information, contact a lawyer right away. But don’t call up just any lawyer. You need an attorney who specializes in medical malpractice. Look for one who has experience with cases similar to yours.
At Hampton & King, we offer caring and compassionate representation. Cases of doctors lying to patients are tricky, but we have the expertise to fight on your behalf. We also value fairness, working on a contingency fee basis. That means you won’t pay a dime unless we help you win a settlement. If you’re ready to see justice served after a doctor has lied, contact us for a free consultation today.