Medical malpractice is an umbrella term that encompasses many forms of physician negligence and error. One of the more common types of malpractice cases seen in court is that of failure to diagnose or errors in diagnosis. When a doctor fails to diagnose properly, it can lead to harm that the patient should not have suffered – such as excess treatment, surgeries, or even fatal heart attacks.
Why Doctors Fail to Diagnose Certain Conditions
Diagnostic errors are one of the most common forms of medical malpractice today. It means that a physician failed to recognize a set of symptoms or signs, and the patient went undiagnosed when they should have been diagnosed correctly and treated sooner. If the failure to diagnose involves a serious medical condition and it leads to injury or harm to the patient (including death), that physician can face legal consequences.
When a doctor fails to diagnose a particular condition, it is often because they have overlooked or neglected to recognize important symptoms. For example, a doctor overlooks chest pain as a sign of anxiety, rather than diagnosing a serious heart condition.
There are three main types of diagnostic errors:
- Failure to Diagnose – This is when the doctor completely misses the connection between a patient’s symptoms and their condition; therefore, no medical treatment is administered for the condition the patient actually has.
- Misdiagnosis – This is when the physician fails to diagnose the right condition and instead misinterprets the symptoms for another.
- Delayed Diagnosis – This is when the physician gives the correct diagnosis, but it takes too long to connect symptoms and the actual condition, leading to further pain or treatments that would not have been necessary with the right diagnosis in time.
Is a Failure to Diagnose Malpractice?
Not all failure to diagnose cases are considered malpractice. In fact, there are instances where patients do not disclose symptoms or relay all symptoms that they are experiencing, leading to a false or missed diagnosis. In order for the claim to be valid, four things must be present:
- The doctor must have owed a legal duty to the patient, as there was an existing doctor-patient relationship. To be legally responsible, the doctor must also have the medical knowledge and skills required of other competent physicians in his or her field.
- The doctor breached their standard duty of care owed to the patient.
- The patient then suffered some type of harm or injury because of that breach of duty.
- The doctor’s mistake caused the injury or harm, and the patient developed a more serious injury or illness because of the failure to diagnose.
Patients do have responsibilities too, which is why it is important patients have their claims assessed by an attorney to see if malpractice is valid. Typically a doctor is liable for malpractice when:
- They do not ask for medical history or assess a patient’s health before diagnosing or dismissing symptoms.
- The physician does not look for any risk factors.
- The physician fails to order necessary tests or screenings to rule out conditions or fails to properly assess the patient’s complaints.
- The physician does not recognize the symptoms given by the patient.
- The physician misinterprets test results.
Speak with a Medical Malpractice Attorney Today
If you feel you have a valid claim for malpractice, contact the attorneys at Schwartzapfel Lawyers, P.C. today. You can schedule a free consultation to discuss your claim at 1-888-575-6410, or fill out an online contact form with your questions.