Court Rejects the Loss of Chance Doctrine in Maryland Medical Malpractice Cases

People suffering from cancer and other critical illnesses typically expect their doctors to offer treatment that alleviates their disease or extends their life. Unfortunately, not all physicians provide their patients with competent care, and their negligence often diminishes their patients’ chances of achieving good outcomes. Recently, a Maryland court addressed whether such carelessness constitutes grounds for recovering damages in a medical malpractice case, ultimately ruling that it does not, rejecting the loss of chance doctrine. If your health was damaged by a careless physician, it is in your best interest to talk to a Maryland medical malpractice attorney about your options for seeking damages.

Factual and Procedural Background

It is reported that the decedent was diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer in 2006. She had a mastectomy, followed by chemotherapy and radiation. She then underwent a series of diagnostic scans, all of which were negative for metastatic disease. A diagnostic test conducted in 2013 showed a new lesion on her clavicle that was potentially cancerous. The defendant, the decedent’s oncologist, reviewed the scan but did not order further testing or advise the plaintiff of the lesion’s presence.

Allegedly, three years later, the decedent underwent testing that showed that her breast cancer had metastasized to her clavicle. The decedent continued to treat but passed away in 2017. Her husband and their children filed a survival and wrongful death action against the defendant. The defendant moved for summary judgment, arguing that the theory the plaintiffs based their case on, the loss of chance doctrine, was not recognized in Maryland. The court granted the motion as to the wrongful death claim. The plaintiff appealed, but the ruling was upheld. He then petitioned for writ of certiorari requesting that the court answer whether Maryland’s Wrongful Death Statute permits recovery of damages where the actions of a doctor shortened the life of a terminally ill patient.

The Loss of Chance Doctrine in Maryland Medical Malpractice Cases

The court ultimately held that the plaintiffs pleaded the loss of chance doctrine, which is not recognized in Maryland, and therefore, held that a plaintiff could not pursue wrongful death claims under the assertion that a defendant shortened the decedent’s life.

In doing so, it clarified that the legislative history and plain language of the Wrongful Death Statute and case law interpreting the Statute compelled it to hold that a plaintiff asserting a wrongful death claim bears the burden of showing, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the defendant’s negligence was the proximate cause of the decedent’s death. As the plaintiff failed to do so in the subject case, the court affirmed the lower court ruling.

Confer with a Skilled Maryland Medical Malpractice Attorney

When the care doctors offer hurts rather than helps their patients, it can lead to devastating injuries and may be grounds for pursuing medical malpractice claims. If you suffered losses due to incompetent medical treatment, you should confer with an attorney about your rights. The skilled Maryland attorneys of Arfaa Law Group are mindful of the devastation caused by medical malpractice, and if you hire us, we will fight to help you seek justice. You can contact us through our online form or by calling us at (410) 889-1850 to set up a consultation.

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