Imagine if you were told by a doctor that you have HIV. For many people, the diagnosis would be a life changer.
In 2000, the doctors at Whitman-Walker told Terry Hedgepeth that he had tested positive for HIV. After hearing the life-changing diagnosis, Hedgepeth became depressed, quit his job as a caterer, began using drugs and alcohol, and twice was committed to a psychiatric ward because of suicidal thoughts.
Five years later, Hedgepeth received alternative treatment from the one he was receiving from Whitman-Walker, and through a routine blood test, he discovered that he was not actually HIV-positive. A follow-up test confirmed that despite the last few years of anguish, he had not actually contracted the HIV virus.
Hedgepeth filed a lawsuit against the Whitman-Walker clinic for emotional distress and post-traumatic stress disorder because of the misdiagnosis. The lawsuit remained in court for years, and has recently been settled – just one week shy of the scheduled trial in D.C. Superior Court.
Thankfully, this settlement has changed legal precedent which was had prevented the seriously injured from recovering for their substantial emotional distress when a medical doctor fell below the standard of care and committed malpractice.