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Doctor held liable for a loss of chance

AP/Boston Globe, July 24, 2008

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court has ruled that doctors can be held liable for negligence that reduces a patient's chance of survival, even if the patient's prospect for recovery was already less than 50%. Medical malpractice lawyers said the decision could help patients who previously had little chance of collecting damages from physicians. The ruling came in a case in which a jury had awarded a $1 million judgment to the family of a man whose stomach cancer was overlooked by a doctor. The court recognized for the first time a doctrine known as "loss of chance," which allows a patient whose odds of recovery are 50% or less to receive damages for any negligence that reduced those odds.