When people hear about medical malpractice claims, an image of a doctor operating on the wrong limb might come to mind; however, there are many instances of medical malpractice that are the result of a doctor’s indirect error, such as a delay in diagnosis.
What Is a Delay in Diagnosis?
A delay in diagnosis is a situation in which a patient who has a certain health condition or illness isn’t told of his or her condition for quite some time. For example, a patient may have been complaining of certain symptoms over a period of several months or years and a doctor failed to order labs, imaging tests, or conduct other studies in a timely manner. After a significant waiting period, a doctor finally performs the needed tests and provides the patient with the correct diagnosis. As a result of the delay, a patient’s health was adversely affected.
A delay in diagnosis is often related to a misdiagnosis; however, they are not the same. The reason they are related is because some patients suffer from both types of doctors’ errors. When a doctor misdiagnoses a patient, there is often a delay in receiving the correct diagnosis.
The Importance of Receiving the Correct Diagnosis
Any time a patient doesn’t get a correct diagnosis, there is a high chance a delayed diagnosis will cause a worsened health condition because a patient isn’t receiving timely treatment for the illness or condition she actually has. When patients have to wait to be treated for certain illnesses, they can suffer significantly. Sadly, some patients have had their cancer spread, suffered a heart attack, or even died because the correct tests weren’t ordered and there was a delay in diagnosis.
The truth of the matter is that a delayed diagnosis can mean the difference between life and death. When a health condition isn’t diagnosed in a timely manner, then treatment is also delayed. A delayed cancer diagnosis, for example, can give the cancer time to spread throughout the body and make it untreatable.
Do I Have a Malpractice Claim Due to a Delayed Diagnosis?
When a doctor eventually finds the problem and provides an accurate diagnosis, you may wonder if you can hold that doctor legally accountable for the harm you suffered due to the delayed diagnosis. Many people are glad to learn that they can file a medical malpractice claim based on a delay in diagnosis; however, some people are surprised to learn that a delay in diagnosis by itself is not enough to file a lawsuit. That is because there are three things that need to be proven in order to have a valid medical malpractice case:
- An established doctor/patient relationship
- The doctor acted negligently
- The doctor’s actions caused the patient further injury
The second item is the most difficult to prove. In order to prove that a doctor acted negligently, it has to be shown that another doctor would have acted differently in the same situation. Because proving a medical malpractice case based on this point involves a thorough evaluation of the doctor’s actions, an experienced attorney should be involved.
Proving a Doctor’s Negligence
To determine if a doctor was negligent in diagnosing a patient, it is important that an attorney discovers whether the doctor did the following:
- Ask detailed questions about the patient’s symptoms
- Review the patient’s medical history
- Order appropriate tests
- Conduct medical observations
- Refer the patient to a specialist
It is important to establish what a doctor did and did not do that caused the delay in diagnosis and a patient’s injury or illness to worsen. An attorney’s job is to show that if the doctor had acted in a timely and appropriate manner, the patient’s condition wouldn’t have progressed.
For help proving your case, please call our office to speak with an attorney experienced in medical malpractice law. We would be honored to answer your questions and help you seek justice. Call us today for a free consultation at (703) 591-0067.