Is Failure to Refer a Patient Considered Medical Malpractice?

When we go to the doctor, we trust that we are in good hands. Unfortunately, doctors can make mistakes. One of the most common mistakes a doctor can make is the failure to refer a patient to a specialist in a timely fashion. If this occurs, the patient can suffer greatly, and the doctor may be considered negligent and held responsible. Read on to learn more about the failure to refer and medical malpractice in Pennsylvania.

When Does a Doctor Need to Refer a Patient?

When a patient-doctor relationship forms, the doctor must continue treatment until the patient recovers or the patient ends the relationship. In some cases, a doctor may not have the knowledge or ability to treat their patient. In a case like this, the doctor should refer his/her patient to a doctor who has the knowledge and expertise to treat the patient. For example, if your general practitioner notices something wrong that may require medical intervention outside of his expertise, he must refer you to a specialist in a timely fashion. Failing to refer a patient to a specialist can be considered medical malpractice.

What is the Standard of Care?

Doctors must follow a “standard of care.” The standard of care refers to a doctor acting in accordance with what another physician of similar qualifications would do in the same situation. So, if another doctor would refer the same patient to a specialist, your doctor should do the same.

What if a Doctor Fails to Refer a Patient?

If a doctor fails to refer a patient to a specialist in a timely manner, there can be serious consequences. Some of the potential consequences can include:

  • The patient’s condition can worsen, even to the point of irreversibility
  • If a physician does not have sufficient knowledge of the field a patient required assistance in, he or she may misdiagnose or delay the diagnosis
  • Doctors sometimes miss diagnoses when failing to refer patients for more specific testing/lab work
  • Sometimes, when doctors fail to refer patients to specialists, it may even result in wrongful death

If you believe you or a loved one has been the victim of medical malpractice in Pennsylvania, contact our firm today.


Friedman Schuman is an experienced and dedicated legal resource for clients throughout Pennsylvania. We proudly serve clients facing a wide range of legal matters. If you require the services of an effective attorney, please contact Friedman Schuman today to schedule a consultation.

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