Almost one quarter of Australians are overweight but you wouldn’t blame their doctor for it, would you? Surely obesity is an issue for the individual and not something that a medical negligence lawyer needs to become involved with. Surprisingly, one Sydney doctor recently faced charges of medical negligence because of the obesity of his patient.
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Late last year, a court awarded Mr Luis Almario $350,000 as a payout in a medical negligence case. According to Almario his GP, Dr Varipatis, had failed in his duty of care for him by not referring him to bariatric surgeon who could perform a lap-band surgery or weight loss clinic to reduce his weight.
When Almario started seeing his GP in 1997 he already weighed over 120kg, well above what the average man should. But it’s not just the man’s weight that the case is concerned with.
When Almario started seeing Dr Varipatis he had a form of liver disease. Over the course of their patient-doctor relationship this liver disease progressed to cirrhosis, liver failure and then liver cancer.
The theory was that if the doctor had referred Almario to some form of weight loss treatment he wouldn’t have experienced liver failure.
However, Dr Varipatis appealed the decision and was successful. A three-judge panel decided that the initial ruling was nonsense and that a doctor’s duty of care only extends to discussing weight-loss options with a patient.
They believed that if he’d referred Almario to a weight-loss clinic it wouldn’t have been successful, as it really is only the individual who can make the decision and commitment to lose weight.
Questions were also raised as to the pointlessness of trying to convince Almario to lose weight.
Medical negligence can certainly cover some tricky ground and no two cases may have similar results.