Misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis is the reason for a great number of medical malpractice lawsuits. It is estimated by experts that 20 percent of medical conditions are misdiagnosed or diagnosed late. This may lead to incorrect or delayed treatment or no treatment at all, allowing the underlying condition to worsen. In some cases the patient’s condition may even prove to be fatal. In an emergency room situation misdiagnosis becomes more commonplace due to the severity of the condition and the need to act quickly.
Determining Delayed or Incorrect Diagnosis Negligence
To prove a medical malpractice claim on the basis of misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis, what the doctor did, or failed to do, is compared to that which would have been done by other doctors skilled in the same practice areas. If, under the same set of circumstances, doctors trained in the same specialty would not have made the same error in diagnosis, the doctor that provided treatment may be held liable for malpractice.
Doctors are not held responsible for all diagnostic errors under the law. Proving malpractice requires in most cases, that the following criteria be met.
- There was an existing doctor-patient relationship
- The doctor failed to provide treatment in a timely, skillful and competent manner.
- Injury was caused by the doctor’s negligence.
Skilled and experienced doctors do make diagnostic errors. This alone is not evidence of negligence. Determining competence involves determining whether the doctor acted in accordance with the differential diagnosis standards used by doctors to determine a patient’s condition or disease.
Using the differential diagnosis method, the doctor makes a list of possible diagnosis in order of probability. The doctor then uses medical observations regarding symptoms, medical history and test results to test the potentiality of each diagnosis. As the analysis proceeds many diagnosis may be ruled out until there is only one remaining.
To prove a medical malpractice case based on diagnostic error, it must be determined that the correct diagnosis was not included on the differential list. Or the correct diagnosis was included on the list but the appropriate tests were not performed or the opinions of specialists were not sought in the investigation to qualify the diagnosis.
Inaccurate or Incorrect Test Results
Inaccuracies from laboratory tests or other diagnostic tests may cause in incorrect diagnosis. This may be caused by human error where samples were mixed up or contaminated, results were read incorrectly, or something was missed on an x-ray or pathology slide. Or in some cases the equipment was faulty. The negligence may not be on the part of the doctor but a technician who mislabeled sampled of misread a slide. This negligence must be proven by the patient.
Proving the Delayed or Incorrect Diagnosis Harmed the Patient
Many conditions such as colorectal cancer, appendicitis, heart attack and even stroke are treatable if diagnosed early. If misdiagnosed or left undiagnosed the consequences may be severe and often fatal. If the incorrect diagnosis or delayed diagnosis caused an abnormal progression in the patient’s condition causing a detrimental effect, proving negligence in a malpractice case may be possible. One example would be if a delayed diagnosis of a heart attack in a young woman caused further damage to the heart muscle. If the diagnosis was made early, as might be the case of an overweight, middle aged man, the proper intervention could have been started sooner, even preventing a second heart attack.
Do I Have a Case for Medical Malpractice?
The laws vary from one state to another regarding negligence and medical malpractice. The best course of action to take, if you feel that a medical professional caused you harm, due to their negligence, is to consult with an experienced medical malpractice lawyer. The lawyer will have the expertise to evaluate your case based on others that have succeeded and plan the right course of action. You may be entitled you receive compensation for your medical expenses, lost income, pain and suffering and more. If you lost a loved one due to medical malpractice you may be able to be compensated for a wrongful death.
Dolman Law Group has represented countless clients in medical malpractice cases in Orlando, Tampa, Miami and the entire state of Florida. Contact Dolman Law Group today for a free evaluation of your medical malpractice case. We do not charge a fee until you collect an award.
We have written another medical negligence blog on this topic that sheds light on just how vital the timing of a diagnosis is, and the impact such may have on an injury victim. To learn more, please click here:
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