Are Delayed Diagnosis and Misdiagnosis Considered Medical Malpractice?
Most people don’t think twice about leaving their lives in the hands of a medical professional. They believe they can rely on them to get the necessary care to heal. But, some doctors have made mistakes that cost lives.
Unfortunately, medical malpractice is common in the US. The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine believes it could be America’s third leading cause of death. And even though there’s been a lot of legislative push to improve patient safety, things may take a while to change.
That said, it would be best to learn how to protect yourself during such devastating events. In this blog, we’ll discuss medical malpractice and how you can file a case.
What is Medical Malpractice?
The term refers to when a healthcare provider fails to provide proper treatment due to negligence, causing the injury or death of a patient.
Is misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis considered medical malpractice? Not always.
On its own, misdiagnosis isn’t considered medical malpractice, and you can’t always file a successful lawsuit against a diagnostic error. Even the most experienced doctors are prone to making diagnostic errors.
There are plenty of ways doctors can misdiagnose patients. Their diagnosis doesn’t necessarily have to be wrong to be considered medical malpractice.
If the diagnosis was done at the wrong time and worsened the patient’s condition, they can sue their physician. But if the doctor can prove that they acted competently, they do not have a case.
There are other ways physicians can make errors in their diagnoses.
Examples of Medical Malpractice
There are seven common types of misdiagnosis recorded nationwide.
Suppose a person is showing asthma symptoms, but their doctor diagnoses them with recurring bronchitis. In that case, they were given the wrong diagnosis.
This misdiagnosis often happens when patients keep certain aspects of the symptoms they’ve been experiencing a secret. It can also happen when there’s an error in their diagnostic test.
It’s not uncommon for different diseases to have similar symptoms. That’s why it’s extra important for physicians to do a thorough check-up.
If a patient visits the ER after injuring her wrist and the attending physician sends her home claiming there’s no bone fracture, only to find out later that there is one, it’s considered a missed diagnosis.
This type of medical error is common among rare or mild diseases.
Retained Surgical Items
Retained surgical items or foreign bodies are among surgeons’ most common mistakes. This medical error happens when an instrument or an assistive device is left in the patient’s body after surgery.
Typically, surgeons count the equipment they’ve used before closing the body to ensure everything is accounted for. Doing so helps prevent instruments from being left inside the patient’s body.
For instance, a patient undergoes an appendectomy, and their surgeon accidentally leaves a sponge within the body cavity. In that case, they can sue them for the damages they suffered from undergoing another surgery to remove the sponge.
Delayed diagnoses happen when a physician makes the right diagnosis at the wrong time. For example, a patient who has never had any serious health issues for years notices that she’s now having trouble eating.
She then visits her primary physician, who tells her she’s had cancer for over a year. In that case, her primary physician’s delayed discovery may have caused her cancer to progress. Instead of being able to prevent her condition from worsening, the delayed diagnosis has put her health in danger.
The risk of physicians making this medical error increases when they are unaware of the patient’s history.
Failure to identify complications
When a doctor makes a correct diagnosis, but they failed to identify any other complications that could harm the patient, it’s considered medical malpractice.
Failure to identify related diseases
Certain diseases come with other related conditions. Conditions like diabetes are known to increase the severity of neuropathy. When physicians fail to test their diabetes patients for neuropathy, then the patient can sue them if their condition worsens.
What Should I Do If My Condition Worsens?
If you need emergency treatment, the first thing you need to do is to get urgent care. If you still feel unwell, suing your doctor could add unnecessary stress to your condition. So, it would be best if you made your health a priority.
After getting the right treatment for your condition, you must find an attorney to sue for the wrongful diagnosis due to medical malpractice.
Medical malpractice cases are nuanced. Patients will be reviewed in the same careful manner as their doctors. The court will examine whether you’re intentionally aggravating your condition. The defendants could also argue that you didn’t follow your doctor’s orders or purposefully delayed your treatment to get money.
Because of this, most experts suggest that patients look for an attorney specializing in medical practice. An expert will help you determine how to proceed with your lawsuit and assist you in building a strong case.
How to Prove Medical Malpractice
Unlike what most people assume, the law can’t hold doctors legally responsible for all diagnostic errors. Given that misdiagnoses can happen due to inaccurate test results, there are three things that a patient needs to prove for them to file a case against their physician successfully:
- Doctor-patient relationship
- Negligence resulting in injury
What to Do
The first thing that a patient needs to do to prove medical malpractice is to establish that there is a doctor-patient relationship. Before you can even argue that a doctor failed to provide the standard care expected of them, you must first show that they’re your primary physician.
You can use your medical records to do this. Your medical malpractice attorney will also provide you with a list of other documents you can use to show that there was a relationship between you and the defendant.
Now, whether the defendant was able to provide standard care depends on expert opinion. Your medical malpractice attorney will seek the opinion of an expert to prove and explain how the defendant’s negligence led to your injuries.
It’s worth noting that misdiagnosis does not equate to negligence. To prove that the physician was negligent, your lawyer will examine what they did and didn’t do when making your diagnosis. Typically, doctors use a differential diagnosis method to rule out diseases.
Differential diagnosis is when physicians use multiple tests to investigate a patient’s condition. They’ll start ruling out their potential diagnoses before concluding with one accurate diagnosis.
If your doctor fails to include the right diagnosis on their differential list, they can be charged with medical malpractice.
Lastly, your attorney must prove that your doctor’s negligence in properly performing the diagnosis ultimately led to your injury. For example, certain cancers could worsen due to delayed treatment.
If someone’s doctor fails to diagnose them with cancer promptly, it could increase the chances of the disease recurring.
What’s The Statute of Limitations For Medical Malpractice?
California law states that patients must file their lawsuit within one year of discovering the injury or within three years of its occurrence. If patients discover their injury four years later, they’ll lose their right to sue their physician.
And it’s this exact reason why victims must hire medical malpractice attorneys as soon as possible. With a lawyer, patients can focus on getting better and prevent any other unnecessary stress from aggravating their conditions.
Adamson Ahdoot is a full-service civil litigation firm with over 100 years of combined legal experience handling medical malpractice cases. With our help, you can trust that the best lawyers will handle your case with the intimacy and attention to detail of a boutique firm with the expertise of a larger one.
Not only will our team make sure you file your case on time, but we’ll also help you build a solid case. Our medical malpractice attorneys have won several personal injury cases. Adamson Ahdoot’s team has made it its mission to help our clients receive the compensation they deserve.
We proudly serve a diverse clientele and offer free English and Spanish consultations. Call us at (800) 310-1606 and start building a robust case today.
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