Failure to Diagnose
What is Failure to Diagnose?
Although medicine is a science, it is a less-than-perfect science where doctors make mistakes. When an error occurs due to negligence, the patient may have a failure to diagnose medical malpractice lawsuit. Failure to diagnose means that an individual saw a physician for specific symptoms, and the doctor failed to diagnose a condition or disease. Because of that failure to diagnose, the individual may have missed the window for treatment or treated for the wrong illness or condition. If the doctor failed to recognize a set of symptoms that indicated a serious condition, the failure could result in a fatality or unnecessary suffering for a patient. Failure to diagnose could include:
- Failure to follow up with a patient regarding medical test results
- Failure to properly screen for a specific medical condition
- Failure to take a complete patient history and thoroughly discuss the patient’s symptoms
- Failure to investigate potential causes of reported symptoms
- Misinterpretation of lab test results
- Failure to refer a patient to a specialist
If you feel you have suffered harm due to a failure to diagnose on your physician’s part, you could benefit from speaking to Attorney John Brothers. When the trust placed in a physician or other medical professional has been broken, John Brothers and The Brothers Law Firm can be trusted to help you recover compensation for your damages. Money cannot change what happened; however, financial resources can help you and your family move forward.
What Conditions are Most Likely to Be Missed?
Unfortunately, the conditions that are most likely to be involved in a failure to diagnose include serious diseases that can significantly worsen with time when there is not an accurate diagnosis and treatment, such as:
- Lung cancer
- Colon cancer
- Breast cancer
- Lymph node inflammation
- Heart attacks
- Fetal distress
- Staph infections
- Kidney disease
How Often Does Failure to Diagnose Occur?
According to a CBS News article, approximately 12 million adults in the United States are misdiagnosed or whose medical condition is not adequately diagnosed—a figure that equals one in every 20 adults. In at least half of these cases, the failure to diagnose or a misdiagnosis has the potential to result in significant harm. Prior studies focused primarily on misdiagnoses and failures to diagnose in hospital settings; however, it appears a considerable number of patients are suffering from a failure to diagnose or misdiagnosis in doctor’s offices and outpatient clinics. The 12 million Americans suffering from a misdiagnosis or failure to diagnose represent about five percent of outpatient encounters.
While this may not sound huge, when lives are at stake, it is simply too high. Doctors must take the time to do a thorough exam and listen to their patients tell them about their symptoms. Unfortunately, in today’s world, doctor’s visits tend to be rushed, almost across the board, and that can result in failures to diagnose. Patients must be their own advocates, chasing down test results if they don’t hear anything following tests and making sure their doctor is listening to them.
What are Some of the Most Common Types of Failure to Diagnose?
Diagnostic mistakes can be made in many ways, including:
- Failure to recognize complications of a specific disease or condition. The doctor may have made the right diagnosis but then failed to identify any difficulties or factors that could worsen the illness or condition.
- Failure to diagnose a disease related to the primary condition. The doctor may have adequately diagnosed the primary condition while failing to diagnose related diseases that often accompany the condition.
- Total missed diagnosis where the patient is given a clean bill of health, even though they have a serious illness or disease.
- Failure to diagnose the disease in time (delayed diagnosis) to ensure prompt treatment, allowing the disease to progress, possibly to the point where no treatment will help the patient.
Is Failure to Diagnose Always Medical Malpractice?
A failure to diagnose may not always be medical malpractice. Perhaps the patient failed to disclose crucial symptoms that could have helped the doctor make a proper diagnosis, or maybe some signs could have indicated a number of conditions or illnesses. Medical malpractice occurred when a doctor failed to diagnose a condition, but another doctor would have correctly diagnosed the illness or condition given the same set of circumstances. A jury will determine whether it was reasonable for the doctor to have failed to diagnose the illness and whether another doctor with similar training would have likely done so under the same circumstances.
Filing a Lawsuit for Failure to Diagnose
For a medical malpractice lawsuit for failure to diagnose to be filed, several things must be true. First, there must have been a doctor-patient relationship. Generally speaking, if you make an appointment with a physician and show up for the appointment, there is a doctor-patient relationship. If, on the other hand, you are at the office Christmas party and ask the husband of a co-worker—who happens to be a doctor—whether the spot on your face looks suspicious, no doctor-patient relationship exists. To prove there was a doctor-patient relationship, you will need your medical records showing you saw the doctor and medical bills showing the doctor was treating you.
Next, you must be able to show that your physician breached his or her duty of care. This means the doctor did not perform to the acceptable standard of care, leading to a failure to diagnose and, ultimately, causing your damages. Suppose you tell your general practitioner that you are concerned that a spot on your face could be skin cancer. Rather than giving you a referral to a skin doctor, your doctor brushes off your concerns and tells you the spot is “nothing.” Six months down the road, you find out the spot is skin cancer, which had now advanced and will be more challenging to treat. Your doctor failed to perform to an acceptable standard of care and could have committed medical malpractice in such a situation.
If the duty of care was breached, then it must be shown that the breach of duty of care is directly responsible for your damages. Those damages could be a decreased lifespan, a serious injury, or increased medical expenses. If the doctor failed to diagnose your condition, but a correct diagnosis would not have changed your outcome, then you probably do not have a claim for medical malpractice.
How Attorney John Brothers Can Help if You’ve Been Injured as a Result of Failure to Diagnose
If you or a loved one suffered harm due to a failure to diagnose, it is crucial that you speak to a medical malpractice attorney John Brothers of The Brothers Law Firm as quickly as possible. We will carefully review your medical records and listen to your account of your doctor’s failure to diagnose, then help you determine whether you have a substantial medical malpractice claim. If you do have a medical malpractice claim for failure to diagnose, Attorney John Brothers will aggressively fight for your right to compensation, holding the negligent physician responsible. Contact The Brothers Law Firm today to explore your legal rights and have a comprehensive evaluation of your potential medical malpractice claim.