Medical Malpractice via Failure to Diagnose
What is a failure to diagnose?
Failure to diagnose is when a doctor doesn’t provide the patient with a diagnosis. This is similar to wrong diagnosis
, where the doctor incorrectly diagnoses the patient’s condition. The reasons for making this mistake can vary. It could be that the patient’s symptoms are uncommon. Patients should also bear in mind that there is not a definitive test for every condition that can lead to a misdiagnosis.
But there are also circumstances in which a doctor’s failure to diagnose is based on incompetence or negligence. For instance, a doctor may be negligent if the symptoms were dismissed as something minor without taking additional steps to ensure they weren’t indicative of a more serious condition (such as running diagnostic tests).
Other situations that could be considered negligent include a misinterpretation of test results by healthcare professionals or when the physician doesn’t refer the patient to a specialist when other reasonable professionals would have done so.
What must patients prove to establish failure to diagnose is medical malpractice?
The first thing that patients must establish is there was a doctor-patient relationship. Going to visit a physician for a checkup or to report symptoms, for example, would establish a doctor-patient relationship. The second element in a medical malpractice claim is proving that the doctor was negligent. It’s important to understand that doctors do make mistakes, and not all of them are indicative of negligence. One of the key issues in determining if a doctor was negligent is whether another reasonable physician under the same set of circumstances would have acted differently.
If the doctor used reasonable care but still failed to diagnose the patient’s condition, it would be difficult to hold the doctor liable. But if the doctor did not exercise reasonable care and judgment, the patient may pursue a claim against the doctor.
Finally, the act of negligence must have caused the patient’s damages. An example would be failing to diagnose a patient with cancer. If it spreads and becomes life-threatening, the doctor might be liable for damages related to the cancer’s spread. The claim may establish that had the doctor used reasonable care and diagnosed the patient’s cancer, it would have prevented the cancer from spreading.
If a doctor fails to diagnose a patient but the patient suffers no harm, the patient cannot hold the doctor liable for damages that did not occur.
To hold a physician liable for medical malpractice there must be damages to one’s finances or wellbeing such as:
- medical bills;
- pain and suffering;
- mental anguish; or
- lost wages.
Is it necessary to hire an attorney for a medical malpractice case?
These are extremely difficult cases to pursue. A failure to diagnose could be especially challenging. Therefore, legal counsel will be quite helpful and necessary in many cases. An attorney can evaluate the situation to determine if there is a legitimate case. The attorney can also help collect evidence that proves not only the doctor’s negligence but the damages the patient suffered.
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About the author of this article: Thomas Ryan