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What Can Happen if a Doctor Fails to Diagnose?

Medical mistakes account for over 250,000 deaths every year according to a recent study, and a failure to diagnose is a major component of that statistic. However, not all cases of delayed diagnoses or misdiagnosis lead to the patient’s death; oftentimes a missed or delayed diagnosis can lead to a worsening or complication of the patient’s condition. There are a variety of ways that a medical professional can make a diagnostic error:

  • Delayed Diagnosis: Even though the doctor eventually made the correct diagnosis, it only came after an unacceptably long period of time.
  • Failing to Recognize a Complication: Even though the correct diagnosis was made, the doctor failed to identify or account for factors or complications that could make the condition or injury worse.
  • Missed Diagnosis: The doctor completely failed to identify the condition or injury and gave their patient a clean bill of health.
  • Failing to Diagnose a Related Condition or Disease: Some conditions and diseases are known to accompany other conditions or diseases, and while the doctor successfully diagnosed the first issue, they failed to account for the subsequent one or ones.
  • Incorrect Diagnosis or Misdiagnosis: The doctor attributed the patient’s symptoms to the wrong condition, and either through lack of proper treatment or treatment that adversely affected their underlying condition, the patient’s condition worsened.

It’s important to note that doctors are not legally responsible for all errors in diagnosis. Generally, the law states that three things need to be proven in a medical malpractice lawsuit for the doctor to be held liable:

There was a preexisting relationship between the patient and doctor. This aspect is fairly straightforward. A doctor who has never treated a patient before cannot be held to the same expectation levels as a doctor who has been seeing a patient for years. That being said, there can be exceptions to this rule in particularly egregious cases.

The doctor failed to provide treatment in a reasonably competent or skillful manner. A failed or delayed diagnoses is not enough on its own to prove negligence in court. Even the most skilled doctors can make diagnostic mistakes while still using reasonable care. The doctor’s actions need to be evaluated in order to determine whether or not they acted in a competent or skillful manner at the time they misdiagnosed or failed to diagnose their patient.’

In order to prove that the doctor’s misdiagnosis was due to negligence in a medical malpractice case, the patient needs to prove that a different doctor, when put under similar circumstances, would have been able to accurately diagnose their condition or illness. Generally, the patient needs to prove one or both of these actions:

  • The doctor failed to include the correct diagnosis on their differential diagnosis list while under similar circumstances, a competent or reasonably skillful doctor would have.
  • While the doctor included the correct diagnosis on their differential diagnosis list, they neglected to seek specialists’ opinions or perform the necessary tests in order to determine the correct diagnosis.

The negligence was directly responsible for the patient’s injuries. The third point that needs to be proven is whether or not the negligent or delayed diagnosis can be blamed for the patient’s condition or injury to worsen past where it would have is the correct diagnosis was made in a timely fashion, and that the worsened condition or injury had a direct impact on their recovery or treatment.

Diagnostic errors are a major issue in U.S. hospitals today. If you are seeking legal compensation following a delayed diagnosis or misdiagnosis, contact Domina Law Group today. Our Omaha medical malpractice attorneys have the experience and knowledge necessary to provide you with the legal representation you require in your time of need. Go to our website for a case evaluation, or call us at (888) 387-4134 to set up a meeting with one of our attorneys.

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