How Your Misdiagnosis Could Actually Be Medical Malpractice
When you feel sick or you are in pain, you naturally go to your doctor to find out what the problem is. A responsible doctor will run the necessary tests and look over your results before deciding on a diagnosis. Surprisingly, there are many doctors who base their diagnosis off a gut instinct, or on flimsy evidence, or outdated medical science. What is particularly dangerous about a misdiagnosis is that it can lead to lasting consequences.
The Dangers of Misdiagnosis
Diagnosing a patient can be a difficult process. There are countless tests that need to be run, symptoms that must be assessed, and medical information that should be consulted. It is understandable that a doctor may not have answers for a patient right away. However, giving the wrong answer is worse than a delay.
Many illnesses and conditions need to be treated immediately to avoid serious health risks. For example, certain types of cancer can be cured with relative ease if they are caught at the beginning stages. However, if the cancer isn’t caught for months, or is diagnosed as something else, then it can rapidly spread to other parts of the body, putting the patient’s life at risk.
For some conditions, for example, ovarian cysts, a misdiagnosis may not be immediately life-threating, but it will leave the patient suffering. Ovarian cysts are incredibly painful and can leave the patient unable to function due to the pain. However, this condition is often misdiagnosed or ignored, leaving patients unable to work, travel, or take care of their families. While a patient may not be killed by a cyst, like she would be with overlooked cancer, she will certainly be facing serious consequences from her misdiagnosis.
What Qualifies as Medical Malpractice?
A doctor getting a diagnosis wrong initially is not unusual. The human body is complicated, and symptoms and tests can point to a similar but incorrect diagnosis. This initial misdiagnosis does not necessarily qualify as medical malpractice, because one of the components of a medical malpractice case is whether the medical professional was negligent. Misdiagnosis on its own may not be enough to qualify as negligence.
In order to determine whether or not your doctor was negligent, you will need to examine the “differential diagnosis.” This term refers to the method used by all doctors during a diagnosis. A responsible doctor will make a list of diagnoses in order of probability, with the most likely diagnosis first, and the least likely last. Life-threatening conditions go to the front of the list to be ruled out. This keeps the doctor on track.
When the list has been generated, the doctor should go down it, writing down observations and test results and comparing those notes to the possible diagnoses. If a test eliminates one of the possibilities, it should be removed from the list. Once the process is over, the doctor should be left with the true diagnosis.
There are three ways that a doctor can be negligent during the differential diagnosis process. Proving a medical malpractice case will involve showing that:
- The doctor did not create a diagnosis list to begin with
- The correct diagnosis was not included in the initial list of possibilities
- The correct diagnosis was included in the list, but the proper tests were not performed or it was incorrectly eliminated
Keep in mind that you will also have to show that a reasonable doctor would not have made the same mistake. If the condition you were suffering from is incredibly rare, for example, then a reasonable doctor might not include it on the list of possible diagnoses.
Other Potential Errors
There is always the possibility that your doctor ran all of the appropriate tests and still managed to misdiagnose you. In such a case, it may not be the doctor’s fault, but the fault of another party. That does not mean you cannot file a claim, however. It simply means that your claim will be against someone else.
For example, if the tests your doctor ran were contaminated by a tech working in the labs, then it would not be your doctor’s fault that he or she received the wrong results. Instead, it would be the fault of the tech who caused the contamination, or the lab director overseeing the tech. These kinds of possibilities are important to keep in mind, because even if you cannot file a claim against your doctor, you may still be able to file a claim against someone else.
If you were misdiagnosed, and that misdiagnosis led to harm, such as a worsening of your condition, then you may be able to file a medical malpractice claim against the negligent party. This will allow you to seek compensation for the damages you suffered. However, doing so will require the help of an experienced Atlanta medical malpractice attorney. Thankfully, you can find them at our firm, Grant Law Office. With one easy call to (404) 995-3955, you can speak with a member of our team and find out what your legal options are.
Contact us today for a free and comprehensive case evaluation.
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