Doctors aren’t magicians and – much as we wish they did – they don’t always have the answers. This doesn’t make them guilty of malpractice.
Nonetheless, there are situations in which either misdiagnosing a medical condition or initially failing to diagnose it may constitute medical malpractice.
When are delays in diagnosis considered medical malpractice?
If a medical expert should reasonably have been able to identify and diagnose your condition but failed to do so, you might have grounds for a claim.
Given their training and experience, it’s considered reasonable to expect doctors to recognise and correctly treat more common medical conditions, if they follow proper diagnostic procedures.
In some cases, misdiagnosis or a delay in diagnosis can lead to unnecessary harm. For example, it may result in inappropriate procedures and treatments being administered. It can also lead to delays in patients receiving the treatment they need, potentially leading to further complications and even death.
Common types of diagnostic errors
Just about any medical condition can be misdiagnosed but the question of malpractice arises when the condition should have been fairly easy to diagnose, given the proper tests and medical expertise.
Certain types of misdiagnoses are fairly common. Examples of these are:
- cancer misdiagnoses, which can lead to unnecessary and painful treatments
- asthma, which may be incorrectly diagnosed as recurring bronchitis
- heart attack, which may be mistaken for indigestion or panic attacks
- staph infection, which is sometimes misdiagnosed as flu
- a stroke, which may be misdiagnosed as a migraine, especially in a younger patient.
What causes a misdiagnosis?
Misdiagnoses are generally caused by oversights or errors in the diagnostic process.
Some examples of oversights leading to medical malpractice claims include:
- not referring a patient to a specialist
- misinterpreting lab test results
- lack of consultation with the patient with regards to their symptoms
- not following up or investigating potential causes of symptoms
- not screening for a particular medical condition.
When to pursue a medical malpractice claim
If a doctor misdiagnosed or failed to diagnose your condition due to negligence or an improper diagnostic process and this led directly to personal injury or harm, you may have a medical malpractice claim.
For example, misdiagnosis or a delay in diagnosis may be grounds for a medical malpractice claim if expected standards of care aren’t followed and:
- your condition can no longer be treated, where it could plausibly have been treated or even cured had it been caught sooner
- delayed diagnosis gives time for preventable complications to develop, leading to serious harm
- misdiagnosis results in unnecessary medical intervention, such as unnecessary surgical procedures, and these have harmful consequences.
Medical malpractice claims
At DSC Attorneys, we specialise in medical malpractice claims. Our personal injury attorneys and medico-legal team can assess your claim, help prepare supporting evidence and represent you in legal proceedings – and we work on a no win, no fee basis.
Contact us for the very best legal support and representation.