In a medical malpractice case, the plaintiff's attorney receives the opportunity to ask questions to the doctor regarding the incident, at the deposition. This question and answer session takes place in an attorney's office, under oath, and whatever is said during the deposition can be presented as evidence during the trial. Before the deposition, the plaintiff's attorney reviews the case file and medical records of the patient.
Reviewing the Medical Records
When a doctor is being deposed, he is required to bring the original charts of the patient to the deposition. The plaintiff's lawyer receives the opportunity to look through these charts before the deposition. In a particular case, the client provided his lawyer with his medical records, which faxed copies of the medical records from the doctor's office.
The patient had requested the copies of his medical records, after last visit to the doctor, he was seeing, as he wanted to consult another doctor. In this case, the lawyer finds something quite remarkable. Every single page of the charts presented by the doctor at the deposition were different from the faxed copies of what the lawyer had, which were obtained by the patient, only days after leaving the doctor's office.
Noting the Discrepancies
The lawyer does not mention any of this, and starts the deposition. He asks the doctor if these are the original charts of the patient. When the doctor agrees, the lawyer then asks whether he was the only one who made the entries in the charts. The lawyer then pulls out his copies and asks the doctor to confirm that they are the faxed copies of notes from his office, and they were faxed from his office only a few days after the patient had last seen the doctor.
When the doctor confirms this, the lawyer then compares the faxed notes and the originals brought by the doctor to the deposition. The two are different and the lawyer asks the doctor about the discrepancy in the contents. The doctor or his attorney is unable to give any answer. The lawyer then compares all the notes and finds them to be different.
Doctor had Altered the Medical Records
The lawyer then asks the doctor, if he had created another set of records. The doctor has no other alternative but to agree with the lawyer, as the evidence is staring him in his face. The doctor had to agree that he had an entirely different set of records before, which he destroyed and created another set of records to present at the deposition.
In medical malpractice cases, there are very few cases where the doctor would have altered the patient's records. If the authorities find out what the doctor has done, he could lose his license to practice medicine. Therefore, altering medical records of the patient by the doctor is a rare occurrence, but it has to be investigated in a medical malpractice case.
When it is evidently clear in the deposition itself that the doctor has done this, the case could be settled immediately, as the doctor will not want the case to go to trial, where there is a strong possibility of him losing his license.
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