When Are Diagnosing Errors Considered Medical Malpractice?

Gavel and stethoscopeWhen an illness, condition, or reoccurring problem causes a person to see a doctor, one trusts that the doctor will be able to diagnose the condition appropriately. However, some doctors actually make diagnosing mistakes that cause patients further harm. Although diagnosis errors occur in a small number of cases, the effects of a misdiagnosis can be huge for victims since this type of medical mistake produces quite serious and even deadly results.

While medical errors can occur on any level in the healthcare setting, one of the biggest causes of concern is when a doctor makes an incorrect diagnosis.  Some common diagnosing errors that result in medical malpractice claims include:

  • Misdiagnosing breast cancer. A misdiagnosis can lead to the removal of an otherwise healthy breast, or a cancerous mass could have been labeled as a benign tumor that should have been removed.
  • Misdiagnosing colon cancer. Doctors may diagnose cancer when patients may be cancer-free, or doctors may fail to take the time and order the proper tests that would have revealed the cancer.
  • Misdiagnosing other types of cancer. Anytime cancer is misdiagnosed, it is given extra time to advance and spread — becoming more serious.

While misdiagnosed cancer is one of the worst medical mishaps, there are other serious misdiagnosing errors that take place at Inova and other hospitals in Northern Virginia including missed heart conditions and infections. When a doctor fails to order the proper tests, fails to check a patient’s medical history, or ignores a patient’s symptoms when making a diagnosis, he or she may be guilty of medical negligence.

Although the doctor who has direct contact with the patient is typically to blame in these situations, he may not be the only one at fault for a misdiagnosis. In fact, radiologists have been known to misread the results of CT scans, MRI tests, or other diagnostic tests.

The Reality of a Misdiagnosis

When a doctor or other healthcare professional misdiagnoses a patient, the result can be any of the following:

  • Incorrect treatment. When a patient’s condition is misdiagnosed, it is common for the person to suffer further due to the wrong treatment he or she received. For example, if a patient’s heart condition was misdiagnosed for acid reflux, the person may have suffered from a heart attack that could have been prevented.
  • Delayed treatment. When a doctor fails to diagnose a condition accurately in a timely manner, a person can suffer from a delay in receiving the appropriate treatment. This often happens when doctors ignore minor symptoms patients complain about.
  • No treatment. When a doctor informs a patient that he or she is “fine” and doesn’t have a condition that needs treatment, a patient’s condition may be made worse due to the length of time he or she wasn’t treated by needed medications or surgeries.

When a person doesn’t receive the correct treatment in a timely manner, the condition is often made worse. Sadly, many people die as a result of an error in diagnosis and failure to receive correct and prompt medical treatment. When this occurs and a patient suffers harm due to a medical professional failing to meet the standards of care, a patient may have a medical malpractice claim.

Pursuing a Legal Claim

A misdiagnosis often leads to more medical expenses and time off of work. As a result, a victim of a misdiagnosis often suffers physically as well as financially. If you suffered a further illness as well a financial loss due to a misdiagnosis, you more than likely have a solid medical malpractice case; however, in order to have a strong medical malpractice claim, you must prove that receiving substandard care was the cause of your further injury and damages. Because medical malpractice claims are often complex cases due to the large hospitals and insurance companies involved, it is critical to have an attorney on your side who has experience in handling medical malpractice cases.

At Shevlin Smith, we know how important it is to show that a reasonable doctor wouldn’t have misdiagnosed your condition. While you focus on fighting your physical battle, we can fight your legal battle. To discuss your case in greater detail, call our experienced medical malpractice attorneys for a free consultation today at (703) 591-0067.