We hear about it often on the news and online – someone is suffering or has died because their illness went undiagnosed, or was diagnosed as the wrong condition. But what exactly causes such grave errors? Certainly doctors are highly trained, well educated and experienced in their practices and should be able to properly assess and diagnose their patients quickly and accurately, right? Most of the time, yes. But sometimes mistakes are made and that is where misdiagnosis comes into play.
Medical attorneys see the same situations time and time again when it comes to misdiagnosis, and these types of medical malpractice cases typically involve:
Failure to refer – The field of medicine is very broad and complex and not every doctor can claim to know every area of medicine there is, so it’s important that when a physician is trying to determine what is ailing his patient, he refer the patient to another medical professional who may be a specialist or have a certain expertise. Failing to do so may result in a dangerous disease or rare disorder going undetected.
Delay in diagnosis – With certain illnesses, time is of the essence. When there is a time delay between when a patient seeks treatment from a doctor and when a correct diagnosis is actually reached, it can result in anything from the condition worsening, spreading, or even causing death to the patient.
Failure to follow up – A recent study showed that an alarming number of patients do not find out about medical test results until it is too late due to lack of follow up by their physician. For this reason, it is always in the best interest of the patient to take the initiative and do their own follow-up.
False diagnosis – Occasionally a patient who is actually disease-free will be falsely diagnosed with a condition that they don’t really have. This can be dangerous because medicine and other treatments that may be given to treat the false illness can cause further injury or harm to a healthy patient.
Misdiagnosis – Unlike a false diagnosis, which is rendered on an otherwise healthy patient, misdiagnosis occurs when one illness or disease is mistakenly diagnosed as another. Once again, the treatments for this wrongly diagnosed condition can cause more harm to the patient, while at the same time the real illness they are suffering from goes untreated and can potentially worsen.
Failure to order tests – When a patient presents symptoms and seeks treatment, it’s imperative that no stone go unturned until an accurate and timely diagnosis is reached. A key part of this process includes ordering the proper tests for the patient, such as X-rays, blood work, MRI’s and CAT scans. When the right tests are not ordered, the disease may not be caught in a timely manner.
Improper test evaluation – Even when the proper tests are ordered, the attending doctor must be able to accurately interpret the results. Misreading an X-ray or MRI, for example, can mean potentially missing something critical such as a tumor. Left undiscovered and untreated, what is missed could cause irreparable harm to the patient.
Of course, these are just a few of the underlying causes of most misdiagnosis lawsuits. There are many other scenarios in which a doctor’s mistake can result in medical malpractice. To find out for sure if your situation is a case of misdiagnosis, contact a medical attorney.