An Illinois Appellate Court once again limited the rights of wronged patients in medical malpractice and negligence cases by affirming a trial court’s grant of summary judgment under the Illinois Tort Immunity Act. The court determined that the Tort Immunity Act immunizes a defendant for failing to make an adequate examination and for a failure to diagnose an illness.
In this case, due to the failure of the hospital staff to diagnose a precancerous condition or cancer, a woman died from cervical cancer. Physicians had diagnosed her with a vaginal infection, but it nearly six months to discover her cancer, at which point it was too late. The plaintiff argued that the lack of a follow-up pap smear constituted negligence related to the treatment of her vaginal infection, not her diagnosis because a repeat pap smear should have been part of her treatment plan. Had the follow-up pap smear been conducted, physicians may have discovered and treated the cancer.
This case limits the rights of patients because it immunizes physicians failure to diagnose where the diagnosis should have been a natural result of a prior treatment plan. Physicians should have held accountable where diagnosis and treatment are so intertwined, especially where the failure to diagnose directly leads to a patient’s death.