Medical malpractice is a broad term that encompasses acts or omissions of doctors, nurses, therapists, technicians, pharmacists, and medical facilities that falls below the established reasonable standard for a person with the same training and background in the same situation. There are many forms of malpractice, but some of the most common include a misdiagnosis of an illness, injury, or other medical condition or a significant delay in the diagnosis of a medical condition, to the extent that the person suffers additional harm.
Different types of diagnostic errors
- Failing to diagnose the medical condition – This often involves a doctor dismissing a patient’s claims of illness and sending them home with an order to take a couple of aspirins and make another appointment if things change;
- Misdiagnosing the injury or illness – In this case, the doctor diagnoses the wrong medical condition, which can lead to an ineffectual course of treatment or a treatment that causes harm;
- Delaying the diagnosis – Although the correct diagnosis was made, the delay was significant enough to lead to additional harm. This is one of the most common forms of diagnosis negligence;
- Failing to identify complications associated with a medical diagnosis – There are times when a doctor makes the correct diagnosis, but fails to identify factors that may lead to a more complicated medical situation and the failure to recognize these elements leads to an exacerbation of the situation; and
- Failing to identify associated diseases – With certain illnesses, there are conditions that frequently are associated with that condition. A doctor may diagnose one condition, but not the associated illness. In other cases, there is a wholly unrelated medical condition that exists separate from the diagnosed illness or injury, which is missed during the initial diagnosis.
Proving Medical Malpractice
Every time a doctor fails to diagnose a medical condition does not support a claim of malpractice. There are times when even the most diligent application of skill will not lead to a diagnosis. In order to hold the doctor liable for negligence, it must be demonstrated that he or she did not act with the reasonable skill that would have been exercised by a doctor with similar background and skills. It is a basic evaluation of competency. In order to demonstrate that a doctor was negligent in misdiagnosing a patient or failing to make the right diagnosis, it often is necessary to review whether or not the doctor relied on the differential diagnosis method and performed the analysis properly. Differential diagnosis involves prioritizing a series of potential diagnoses based on the symptoms and analysis of the patient’s condition. It often is necessary to order diagnostic tests, consult with colleagues, or refer the patient to specialists. By comparing the actions of the doctor to those that would have been performed by other doctors with commensurate backgrounds under similar circumstances, it is possible to arrive at the reasonable doctor standard and demonstrate that the doctor was negligent in taking the actions that he or she did.
In order to demonstrate negligence based on a failure to diagnose the patient’s condition, or delaying the diagnosis to the point where additional harm is suffered, it is necessary to demonstrate the following:
- The doctor did not identify the correct diagnosis, which another competent doctor would have done under similar circumstances;
- The doctor did include the proper diagnosis on the list of prioritized potential conditions. However, the doctor did not act in a reasonable manner in determining whether or not the diagnosis was correct, including failing to consult with the appropriate specialists or order the right medical tests to confirm the diagnosis;
- The doctor did order the proper diagnostic tests, but failed to interpret the test results correctly. There are situations where the doctor could not have made the right diagnosis because the laboratory that analyzed the sample made a mistake, in which case, a lawsuit could be brought against the diagnostic facility.
In order to succeed in a medical malpractice case based on misdiagnosis, delayed diagnosis, or failure to diagnose, the patient must demonstrate that he or she suffered from actual harm as the result of the doctor’s negligence. This may be shown by the development of a serious condition that would have been avoided by early diagnosis or by the necessity of a more invasive course of treatment and sub-optimal results from the treatment. In severe cases of negligence, the patient may suffer from permanent injury or may die as the result of the negligence.
Stern Law, PLLC Works Hard for Those Harmed by Medical Malpractice
There are many good doctors who provide competent care for their patients, but when these doctors fail to diagnose an illness or injury or delay that diagnosis to the point where additional harm is done, it may be necessary to pursue a medical malpractice claim against them. At Stern Law, PLLC, we understand how much harm can be done when doctors and other medical professionals make serious errors. For more than 30 years, we have advocated zealously on behalf of our clients. In addition to the skilled representation of our clients, we also prioritize acting as a resource for those who have been impacted by medical malpractice. We have staff available to answer questions 24 hours a day, seven days a week for anyone who has a question or concern. Call us at 1-844-808-7529 or fill out an online contact form in order to learn how we can help you get through this difficult time.