Is Failure to Diagnose Considered Medical Malpractice?
We often rely on the expertise of doctors and other medical professionals when dealing with health conditions. Medical conditions can be managed when they're promptly and accurately diagnosed. Yet, doctors sometimes fail to diagnose or delay diagnosing a condition, which may constitute medical malpractice.
In this blog, we discuss how prevalent the problem is, the types of conditions that are often misdiagnosed, and what you can do if you're harmed by a misdiagnosis or failure to diagnose.
What conditions are often misdiagnosed?
Each year, roughly 795,000 people are harmed in the U.S. due to incorrect diagnoses of common medical conditions. Below, you'll find the conditions that are most often misdiagnosed or missed entirely.
Cancer is a group of diseases involving abnormal cell growth with the potential to invade or spread to other parts of the body.
Early diagnosis is crucial because it often increases the chances of successful treatment. Detecting cancer early can prevent the spread of the disease, which can be critical for patient survival and quality of life.
Some cancers may not be easily detectable in the early stages with standard screening methods. Additionally, many cancer symptoms can be vague and overlap with other less severe conditions. However, it's best for doctors to perform multiple tests to ensure they reach an accurate diagnosis.
An aneurysm is an abnormal bulge or ballooning in the wall of a blood vessel. It can occur in arteries at various points in the body, most notably in the brain and abdominal aorta.
Diagnosing an aneurysm is important as it can grow and potentially burst. This can cause dangerous bleeding or a life-threatening hemorrhage. Early detection can lead to preventive treatment options to reduce the risk of rupture.
Some aneurysm symptoms can be mistaken for other, less serious conditions. However, doctors should be aware of these symptoms and not rule out aneurysm.
A heart attack, also known as myocardial infarction, occurs when blood flow to the heart muscle is blocked, often by a blood clot. This leads to tissue damage or death.
Prompt diagnosis is crucial to restore blood flow and minimize heart damage. Doctors must diagnose a heart attack with utmost attention and care. A heart attack may not always have the standard symptoms (e.g., chest pain, difficulty breathing). Plus, electrocardiograms can be misinterpreted.
A stroke happens when the blood supply to part of the brain is interrupted or reduced. This prevents brain tissue from getting oxygen and nutrients, which causes cells to die.
Immediate diagnosis is necessary to start treatment as soon as possible. Strokes sometimes present subtle symptoms or symptoms that mimic other conditions.
A blood clot is a clump of blood that has changed from a liquid to a gel-like or semisolid state. Deep vein thrombosis is when such clots form in the deep veins of the body, usually in the legs.
Detecting DVT is important because clots can dislodge and travel to vital organs, causing blockages. There are no standard screenings for blood clots in asymptomatic patients, so they can be easily missed. Plus, some DVT symptoms (e.g., leg pain or swelling) can be mistaken for muscle strains or other less serious conditions. If you believe you or a loved one may have experienced a misdiagnosis or medical negligence related to a blood clot, it is essential to seek legal counsel promptly to assess your eligibility for a blood clot lawsuit.
A pulmonary embolism is a sudden blockage in a lung artery. It's usually caused by a blood clot that travels from the leg or other part of the body to the lungs.
Rapid diagnosis is important because a large or untreated pulmonary embolism can be fatal. However, the sudden and severe nature of a pulmonary embolism can lead to misdiagnosis as a heart attack, panic attack, or other respiratory conditions.
Infections occur when harmful microorganisms such as bacteria, viruses, fungi, or parasites invade the body and multiply. This causes harm to body functions or structures.
Diagnosing an infection is crucial to determine the appropriate treatment. Infections often present with common symptoms like fever, fatigue, and malaise, which can be attributed to various illnesses. That's why it's important for doctors to properly test saliva, blood, and other bodily fluids for infections.
How is a misdiagnosis or failure to diagnose proven in a medical malpractice claim?
Proving a misdiagnosis or failure to diagnose in a medical malpractice claim involves establishing several key elements. These elements demonstrate that the healthcare provider's actions deviated from the accepted standard of care in the medical community. Here's how these elements are typically proven:
- Establishing a doctor-patient relationship: Proving a doctor-patient relationship requires medical records, appointments, and billing that show the healthcare provider's agreement to treat you.
- Demonstrating negligence: You must show that the healthcare provider's diagnosis was negligent. This requires expert testimony illustrating how a competent doctor wouldn't have made the same error and how the standard of care was breached.
- Linking negligence to harm: It is essential to demonstrate a causal link between the doctor's negligence and resulting harm, which may include treatment delays, aggravated conditions, increased medical expenses, and other associated damages.
- Causation: Proving causation is the most challenging part. It involves showing that a correct or timely diagnosis would have prevented harm. This often requires expert witnesses to outline the probable outcome of an accurate diagnosis.
What are my legal options if I'm harmed due to a misdiagnosis or failure to diagnose?
If you're suffering from an injury or adverse medical condition due to a misdiagnosis or failure to diagnose, or a loved one died due to a doctor's negligence, it's important that you speak to an attorney as soon as possible.
The legal team at Pajcic & Pajcic handles medical malpractice claims involving hospital injuries, doctors' liability, and nursing home negligence. We have a proven track record of helping clients seek the justice, accountability, and financial compensation they deserve.
In one medical malpractice case, we secured a $6 million settlement for a missed blood clot. We also recovered $1.75 million for the family of a detective who died due to a misdiagnosis of a diabetic emergency.
To find out how our medical malpractice attorneys can help you, contact us online or call our law office in Jacksonville, FL for a free and confidential consultation.