Failure to Diagnose
Failure to diagnose is the most common reason for medical malpractice lawsuits in the modern world. They occur when a medical or healthcare professional doesn’t diagnose a condition or ailment that an otherwise competent professional would have been able to spot.
Failure to diagnose may also apply to medical malpractice if a delay of diagnosis were to occur. This may happen when a patient complains of severe symptoms yet the healthcare or medical professional doesn’t take them seriously enough and prolongs the time it takes to diagnose this patient.
When this occurs, patients may be able to file for a medical malpractice lawsuit because they would’ve had time to lessen or completely avoid injury had they known of the diagnosis sooner.
How a Failure to Diagnose Occurs
Failure to diagnose cases come about when a patient can prove that a medical or healthcare professional’s negligence caused foreseeable harm that resulted in proven damages.
The injury that occurred can take many forms such as pain and suffering, loss of earning capacity, the loss of the ability to enjoy life, and increased medical bills. The damages caused by the injury are typically much easier to prove than other proof requirements.
The critical proof that is needed is the ability to prove that the injury was caused by the error in diagnosis or lack of diagnosis. In other words, a doctor may be negligent and damages may have occurred, but proof that the doctor was responsible for those damages still must be met.
For example, if a patient comes in complaining of throat and lung pain, and the doctor doesn’t diagnosis it as lung cancer, the doctor may not always be held liable. Even if the patient were to die the next month, it must be proven that the lack of actions taken by the doctor would have prevented the death. If in fact, medical standards would dictate that no treatments are available and the patient would’ve died within the same time frame, even with a proper diagnosis, the doctor won’t be held liable and the medical malpractice lawsuit will fail.
On the other hand, if a patient had been complaining of constant migraines and prolonged headaches over several years, and a doctor didn’t correctly diagnose their brain cancer, medical malpractice may have occurred. This is because the doctor could’ve diagnosed their cancer a long time ago and thus would’ve had treatment options available. Even if the patient would’ve died in the end, the doctor may be held liable for increased medical bills as well as physical pain and mental anguish that occurred from not knowing what the underlying disease was.
Even if life isn’t able to be saved, failure to diagnose may still result in shortening the lifespan of someone by several months or years. This is a type of damage that can be pursued under medical malpractice given the right circumstances.
A delay of diagnosis may also be a cause for medical malpractice. This occurs when a medical or healthcare professional delays seeing a patient or properly diagnosing them. Often, this occurs when a medical or healthcare professional doesn’t treat the reported symptoms with enough severity.
An example may be a patient coming in with pain in their abdomen. Pain in the abdomen is a common complaint in appendicitis, which can be fatal if left untreated. If a doctor was to tell a patient to come back at another time for diagnosis, and then the patient suffers a ruptured appendix, medical malpractice may have occurred.
Common Causes of Failure to Diagnose
The possibilities of diseases and ailments that a medical or healthcare professional may fail to diagnose are seemingly endless. However, there are several causes of failure to diagnose cases that make up the majority of medical malpractice lawsuits. They are:
When a doctor fails to or improperly conducts/interprets a test that could cause a mistake in the narrowing down of possible diagnoses.
When a doctor fails to include an important or vital medical problem on the initial differential diagnosis list
When a doctor fails to recognize the urgency of a possible medical condition and thus delays the diagnosis. This is perhaps the most common of reasons why a failure to diagnose a malpractice lawsuit comes about.
When a nurse fails to properly provide diagnostic medication. This may lead to altering the patient’s response to the medication, which then, in turn, could lead the doctor to come to the wrong conclusion. In this case, the nurse would be held liable for medical malpractice, not the doctor.
It’s a common misconception that doctors are the only ones able to be sued for medical malpractice. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. Here is a list of persons who may be held liable in a medical malpractice lawsuit:
- Doctors, nurses, nurse practitioners, midwives, physician assistants
- Surgeons, physicians, psychiatrists, and dentists
- Physiotherapists, chiropractors, osteopaths, social workers, pharmacists, psychologists, optometrists, medical radiation practitioners, occupational therapists, and podiatrists. These persons are otherwise known as allied health professionals.
The Diagnostic Error Must Have Caused Harm
A key factor in whether you’ll be able to successfully file a medical malpractice lawsuit is proving that the diagnostic error caused harm that resulted in damages. In other words, if a doctor misdiagnoses your non-serious condition for another non-serious condition and no additional bills or injury occurred from that point, medical malpractice will be hard to prove.
This is because, while the doctor may have been wrong, it didn’t impede your life or negatively affect you. This also means that a doctor may get your diagnosis wrong on the first try, but still not be held to medical malpractice standards. This is because, in the case you have a rare disease or condition, the doctor would reasonably test for and possibly diagnose you as something else with similar conditions. In this case, other competent doctors in the same circumstances would have also done the same thing.
On the other hand, if the condition didn’t resolve and the doctor didn’t pursue further testing to find out the actual issue, medical malpractice may have occurred.
Contact an Attorney to file your Lawsuit
If you or your loved one are a victim of medical malpractice, contact our lawyers to represent you. They are available 24/7 and have decades of experience resolving personal injury cases such as yours.
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