When you are suffering from an illness or injury, you rely on doctors to do what you cannot: consider your symptoms, perform proper tests and ultimately make a correct diagnosis. A physician’s failure to diagnose your illness may allow your condition to worsen, perhaps past the point of effective treatment. If a doctor diagnoses you incorrectly and orders treatment for a disorder or disease you do not have, then you may sustain further injuries in addition to the harm caused by your untreated condition. While doctors cannot make perfect diagnoses for all conditions all the time, it is reasonable to trust a doctor to carefully study your condition and to keep you informed of all possibilities. If doctors break that trust and misdiagnosis occurs, then you may be able to file a medical malpractice lawsuit to recover the cost of your medical bills and other damages. Baltimore medical misdiagnosis attorney Susan R. Green knows firsthand how painful and discouraging misdiagnosis can be. For over 20 years, doctors failed to diagnose her Lyme disease, often misdiagnosing her symptoms as other conditions. However, she trusted her instincts and never stopped fighting for answers. She takes the same approach to her legal work and will not give up a fight or pass off a tough case, especially a medical misdiagnosis lawsuit.
How is a Misdiagnosis Different from a Delayed or Missed Diagnosis?
Misdiagnosis, missed diagnosis and delayed diagnosis are closely related concepts which often overlap in a given claim. The main differences are:
- Misdiagnosis is also called “wrong diagnosis” because it occurs when a doctor comes to an incorrect conclusion about your condition. For example, a doctor may misdiagnose cancer as the flu. Failure to diagnose infections and other complications may also occur even if the physician correctly diagnoses one condition. When misdiagnosis occurs, the patient’s condition may progress without treatment. Additionally, the treatment ordered for the incorrect diagnosis may cause other injuries.
- Missed diagnosis occurs when a doctor fails to detect an illness or condition entirely. Patients may be sent home with no treatment or told to take over-the-counter medications for minor symptoms. This leaves the true condition untreated, potentially allowing symptoms to worsen. In some cases, an illness that would have responded to treatment may progress too far, possibly causing death. For example, a missed diagnosis of cancer may allow it to metastasize beyond treatment.
- Delayed diagnosis happens when a physician initially misdiagnoses a condition, but then later corrects this mistake. However, this delay may still allow an illness to progress, causing preventable injuries or complications. Often, victims file a misdiagnosis lawsuit after finally receiving a correct diagnosis weeks, months or years after the fact.
Diagnosis errors can have serious effects, including infection, organ failure, brain or spinal cord injury, and wrongful death. Heart attacks, meningitis, strokes, lupus and cancer are all commonly misdiagnosed conditions that may cause irreparable injury.
Can I Sue My Doctor for Misdiagnosis or Delayed Diagnosis?
If a physician misdiagnoses your condition or fails to diagnose you within a reasonable timeframe, then you may be able to recover compensation through a medical malpractice claim. These types of claims are often complicated, however, and require medical experts to verify that your doctor’s actions differed from the way another qualified physician would have proceeded. Common diagnosis errors that a medical expert can identify include:
- Failure to screen for a condition indicated by symptoms. Certain symptoms require doctors to follow established procedures to rule out or authenticate a condition. For example, since indigestion and nausea can indicate a heart attack, emergency room doctors should know to screen for other signs of heart distress in patients exhibiting these symptoms. Failure to do so may constitute medical negligence if the patient then suffers heart failure and/or wrongful death.
- Lack of referral. In certain circumstances, doctors should refer patients to specialists, who can use their experience and training in a specific field to make a correct diagnosis.
- Misinterpretation of test results. Careless or negligent doctors may incorrectly read or interpret tests results. This may result in the failure to diagnose a critical condition. Additionally, if technicians, radiologists or lab workers negligently process tests, then the results may be incorrect. In these cases, parties other than the doctor may be liable for your misdiagnosis.
- Failure to consult with the patient about symptoms, preexisting conditions and reliability of test results. Doctors must gather full and complete information about your symptoms and medical history. This information may be crucial to your diagnosis and/or to preventing dangerous treatment or medication errors.
- Failure to identify additional conditions. Sometimes, two or more conditions may be causing your symptoms. However, a negligent doctor may order treatment for one illness without checking for complicating factors like secondary conditions.
Need to File a Misdiagnosis Lawsuit? Contact Our Baltimore Lawyer Today
Doctors have a duty to treat each patient with the same level of care during diagnosis. However, too often physicians listen to only a few of your symptoms, make a quick diagnosis and send you on your way. This kind of carelessness can have serious repercussions on your health. Misdiagnosis of cancer and other aggressive diseases can even cause death, a death that should have been preventable.
Issues of missed and delayed diagnosis are particularly close to attorney Susan Green. As a victim of misdiagnoses for over 20 years, she understands the harm doctors can cause by carelessness and failure to communicate. Today, she makes it her goal to help other victims of medical negligence stand up for their rights and raise awareness of diagnosis errors. Call or contact Hardball Law to schedule a free initial consultation today.