A doctor may be held liable for misdiagnosis if he or she deviates from accepted medical practices that another doctor under similar conditions would follow.
How Misdiagnosis Can Be Dangerous
If a physician fails to diagnose an injury, illness, or medical condition, you may not receive the proper treatment you need. In some instances, this treatment could mean the difference between life and death.
For example, if your doctor fails to diagnose cancer, it may be too late for you to undergo life-saving treatment by the time you receive an accurate diagnosis. Likewise, if a doctor waits too long to diagnose your condition, there can be potentially fatal consequences.
If a doctor misdiagnoses you and then treats you for a condition you do not have, the results can also be devastating.
A doctor may also be held liable if he or she arrives at the correct diagnosis after an unreasonable delay.
For a free legal consultation, call 800-641-8998
How Doctors Diagnose Illness or Injury
When you see your doctor with a specific medical complaint or symptom, your doctor should follow what is known as a “differential diagnosis.” This is a systemic approach that physicians use to narrow a list of potential medical conditions in order to reach the correct diagnosis.
Ideally, your doctor will collect as much information as possible to reach the correct diagnosis, such as:
- Asking detailed questions about your symptoms and medical history
- Ordering medical tests
- Referring you to a specialist
It is important to understand that many physical or mental conditions may share similar symptoms. That is why even the most diligent physician can make a mistake in reaching a diagnosis. Legal action is therefore reserved for doctors who knowingly or carelessly abandon their duty to deliver healthcare using accepted medical practices.
How a Misdiagnosis May Occur
Failure to diagnose an illness correctly may have distressing physical, emotional, and financial effects. A misdiagnosis is even more heartbreaking because it is often preventable.
Here are some examples of how a misdiagnosis might happen.
Failing to Recognize Symptoms
Illnesses, injuries, and other medical conditions all have signs and symptoms that can reveal their identity to a doctor.
For example, a patient has a red, itchy rash or blisters, fever, headache, and overall malaise. These are all known symptoms of chickenpox, according to the Mayo Clinic.
A doctor may be able to diagnose chickenpox based on these symptoms alone, or he or she can order lab tests to confirm the diagnosis.
Chickenpox is readily treated and rarely fatal, so a misdiagnosis is disturbing but not life-threatening. Failing to recognize the known symptoms of heart disease or a type of cancer obviously has more significant and extensive consequences for both the patient and his or her family.
Failing to Listen to Patients or Examining Medical History
One of the most important aspects of diagnosis is listening to a patient and understanding a patient’s medical history.
A doctor can help a patient explain his or her symptoms more clearly by asking such questions as:
- When did the symptoms start?
- What are you doing when you notice these symptoms?
- Have you traveled to another country, tried a new food, or been exposed to potential toxins?
Doctors should also take the patient’s medical and family history into account. For example, you may have an increased risk for some types of cancer if your parent or sibling had the disease. A doctor should keep this information in mind for both preventative care and treatment.
Failing to Order Medical Tests
A doctor who does not order medical tests, orders the wrong tests, or misreads test results may be held liable for misdiagnosis. Doctors are expected to uphold a standard of care that includes ordering standard medical tests for certain symptoms.
Radiologists, pathologists, and other diagnostic medical professionals can be found negligent for wrongly interpreting test results.
When a Misdiagnosis Becomes Medical Malpractice
You may be awarded compensation if there is evidence that a negligent doctor misdiagnosed a medical condition for you or a family member.
A medical malpractice lawyer can determine if you have a viable case by establishing that:
- A doctor-patient relationship exists
- Your doctor failed to uphold accepted medical standards and practices
- This negligence caused your injuries
- You now have damages such as medical bills or pain and suffering
Proving medical malpractice is a complex legal process. If you have questions or concerns about potential malpractice, it may be time to call a lawyer. You could recover compensation for medical bills, lost pay, mental anguish, and other damages.
For a free case evaluation, call Ben Crump Law, PLLC at 800-641-8998.