Reporting terminal ailments - Merely stating “advised to correlate the report with clinical findings” not enough to escape legal liability

  • Posted on: June 20, 2024

A standard statutory statement “to be correlated clinically” is found written under every pathological report. Pathologists / radiologists should be aware that this addendum would not protect them in a medical negligence court case every time. Why so? Read this case to know more…

Irrefutable Facts

The patient with complaints of continuous cough for more than 15 days consulted the doctor, who advised CT scan of the chest which revealed mediastinal lymph nodes. The patient was referred to the pulmonary department where he underwent sputum test and test for TB. Both were negative.

Thereafter, the patient underwent bronchoscopy. Biopsy of the lymph node reported adenocarcinoma of the lung. The patient was referred to the oncology department; was advised PET scan; the same was conducted at the diagnostic centre, which reported Stage IV cancer.

The patient was administered chemotherapy thrice as per protocol. His condition did not improve; he was admitted to a higher centre. The patient was diagnosed with TB relying on the biopsy report, and for which treatment was provided.

The patient sued the doctor and diagnostic centre, alleging that he suffered mental trauma and had to take chemotherapy due to wrong reporting and diagnosis of cancer.

Doctor’s Plea

The doctor stated that he had diagnosed the patient only after conducting requisite investigations. Furthermore, the patient was cured after undergoing chemotherapy and might have developed TB thereafter.

The diagnostic centre stated that it was nowhere opined in the report that cancer had spread out from the lungs. On the contrary, it was advised to correlate the report with the clinical findings.

Court’s Observations

The court outrightly rejected diagnostic centre’s defence.After perusal of the investigation report, it was observed that the PET scan machine “could not have given the incorrect picture, rather a magnified picture”.

The court concluded that the diagnostic centre was negligent in issuing a wrong report and thereby putting the patient “in a situation of life and death.” Hence, the diagnostic centre was held negligent.

Prevention Is Better Than Cure

Extra care / contemplation is needed to be taken by pathologists / radiologists in reporting on investigations requisitioned, especially in cases of terminal ailments. Merely writing “to be correlated clinically” may not offer complete protection in a court of law. This phrase is liberally written in every other investigation report under the misconception that it will offer legal protection. This judgement should dispel such misconception.


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Source : Spiral CT and MRI Centre v/s Vijay Ramola & Anr.