Failure to diagnose and misdiagnosis of a disease or injury are the basis for a lot of medical malpractice cases. Not all misdiagnoses are necessarily medical malpractice. Not all diagnostic errors give cause to a successful lawsuit. Even competent and experienced doctors make diagnostic errors. The misdiagnosis or failure to diagnosis must result in delayed treatment, no treatment, improper medical care or worsening of the patient’s condition in order for any malpractice to be actionable.
A misdiagnosis may involve a delayed diagnosis, wrong diagnosis, a missed diagnosis, or a failure to recognize the complications that could aggravate an existing condition. A doctor can diagnose one condition correctly but misdiagnose another condition or he/she may fail to realize a second diagnosis needs to be made.
What needs to be proven in a case like this? A patient bringing a case like this must prove that the doctor failed to live up to the standard of care in diagnosing the patient’s condition, there must be a doctor-patient relationship and that the doctor’s failure to misdiagnose or diagnose actually caused an injury. This will require an expert opinion who will look at the doctor’s differential diagnosis method and the medical records. What is the differential diagnosis method? When trying to diagnose a patient, a doctor will make a list of possible diagnoses in order of their probability and test them by asking the patient a series of questions, ordering tests, etc. The goal in this is to rule out the possible diagnoses until only one remains. However, the doctor learns more information that requires him/her to supplement the list with other possibilities.
Our job in trying to prove a misdiagnosis is we must show that a doctor in the same specialty would not have misdiagnosed the disease, illness, or injury. We will have to show that the doctor did not include the correct diagnosis on the list and that a competent doctor would have included it. Another scenario is the Plaintiff must show that the doctor listed the correct diagnosis but did not perform the right tests to arrive at the correct diagnosis by the end of the differential diagnosis method.
Now a misdiagnosis isn’t always the doctor, sometimes it is a faulty lab result or test. This can happen because of flawed equipment or human error. A technician who administers a test inappropriately or a secondary doctor misreads a scan resulting in the doctor making wrong diagnosis can be held liable. If the hospital staff makes the mistake, the hospital can be held directly liable.
Causation is challenging to prove in cases like these. We must prove for instance that the misdiagnosis caused the injury to worsen. For example, if a delayed cancer diagnosis caused the wrongful death of a patient, the question remains whether a patient would have had the same outcome or would he or she have lived longer if it had been caught at the right time.
If you have any questions regarding your potential case please let Thomas & Wan, LLP help you today. Remember having your medical records is going to be the key to us finding out what happened to you or a loved one. If you are having trouble obtaining the records, we can also help you with that. Please call us at 713-529-1177.