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Wisconsin High Court to Determine Doctors Duty to Inform Patient of Alternative Treatment

The Wisconsin Supreme Court will review a case where the patient claims he did not receive enough information regarding alternative tests of his physical condition. In Jandre v. Physicians Insurance Company, patient Thomas Jandre was seen by an emergency room physician after suffering strokelike symptoms in 2003. His doctor performed a physical examination, which did not reveal signs of a stroke. She diagnosed Jandre as suffering from Bell's palsy, a non-life-threatening occurrence of nerve inflammation in the brain. An ultrasound of Jandre's heart was not performed.

Eleven days later, Jandre suffered a massive stroke. A subsequent ultrasound revealed that Jandre had a 95 percent blockage of the carotid artery. During trial two doctors testified that if an ultrasound had been performed, it would have revealed a blocked artery that could have been immediately treated by surgery. The blockage in the artery could have then been removed and the stroke prevented. Jandre argued that the emergency room physician failed to tell him about the availability of the ultrasound procedure and therefore denied him the information necessary to make an informed decision.

Appeals Court Upheld Jury Verdict

The jury found in Jandre's favor and awarded him $1.85 million. On appeal, the appeals court upheld the jury verdict and found that a reasonable person in Jandre's condition would want to know if there was a test that could rule out a stroke. It found that even though the emergency room physician's diagnosis may not have been negligent, her failure to tell Jandre about the ultrasound that could rule out a stroke was a violation of Wisconsin medical malpractice law that requires physicians to assist patients in making informed decisions. The law specifically requires doctors to "inform the patient about the availability of all alternate, viable, medical modes of treatment and about the benefits and risks of these treatments." The Wisconsin Supreme Court has been asked to clarify the effect of this law.

A state's laws pertaining to medical malpractice are complicated and often confusing, even for experts. If you believe that you have been injured due to the negligence of a medical care provider, obtain the advice of an experienced attorney.