Physicians and health care providers have a duty to provide reasonable care to patients and a moral obligation to do everything they can to treat patients. Medical malpractice may arise when a doctor fails to diagnose a patient’s condition. Failure to diagnose also includes cases where a physician delivers a delayed diagnosis, which can be just as harmful as no diagnosis at all. Certain medical conditions and diseases can quickly spread, progress rapidly, and become more difficult to treat as time goes by. People put their full faith in doctors to make correct diagnoses and develop proper treatment plans, and as a result, may not seek second opinions from other doctors. When a doctor does not have expertise in a certain area, he or she should refer you to a specialist.
If a doctor’s negligence leads to a delayed diagnosis, incorrect diagnosis, or a failure to diagnose, the patient may suffer preventable injury, permanent disability, or death. If you or a loved one have been injured as a result of a doctor’s negligence, you may be entitled to compensation. The Philadelphia personal injury attorneys at The Reiff Law Firm have decades of experience fighting for those who have been hurt by an incorrect diagnosis. Our skilled advocates are committed to getting you the compensation you deserve and holding negligent third parties accountable for their actions. If you have suffered an injury, call us at (215) 246-9000 or contact us online to schedule your free consultation.
Common Diagnosis Errors
The first step in treating a patient is discovering and understanding any ailments that may be troubling the patient. After a patient is diagnosed, a physician will then make a plan to treat the patient effectively. However, if a patient is not properly diagnosed, a doctor could create a treatment plan that harms the patient, or that does help control their illness. The following is a list of common types of diagnosis errors that can cause serious issues for a patient.
Failure to Diagnose
Failure to diagnose occurs when a medical practitioner completely fails to discover any issues with the patient’s health. Alternatively, a doctor may believe that some type of illness is affecting the patient, but they cannot pinpoint what the illness is.
A failure to diagnose can affect a patient in several ways. For example, if a patient had breast cancer and their doctor failed to detect this illness, by the time it is actually discovered the treatment plan may be ineffective. This could lead to a patient dealing with a terminal illness that may have been prevented if it was noticed sooner.
With all the advances in medical technology, it can be hard to imagine that an illness like cancer can go undiagnosed. However, failure to diagnose issues are more common than you might believe.
A misdiagnosis is when a physician mistakes one health condition for another type of health condition. For example, if a doctor mistakes the signs and symptoms of Lyme disease for the flu, this can make it difficult to properly treat a patient.
Similar to the flu, Lyme disease can cause a person to experience chills, fevers, fatigue, muscle aches, and other symptoms that are reminiscent of the flu. However, Lyme disease will eventually develop more serious symptoms if it is not treated properly. For example, a person can suffer from inflammation of their brain and spinal cord if Lyme disease is not properly diagnosed. As you can guess, the treatment for the flu and Lyme disease are not the same, which can lead to a patient dealing with an illness that could have been easier to handle if it was noticed sooner.
It is estimated that about 40% of illnesses are initially misdiagnosed. However, with few ways to report these problems, some patients and their families only option for justice are to file suit against a negligent hospital or practitioner.
Delay in Diagnosis
A delay in diagnosis means that a doctor eventually discovered the sickness affecting their patient, but only after a significant amount of time passed. Delays in diagnosis can prove fatal for some patients if they are contending with a life-threatening illness. With every day that passes, a person’s symptoms may continue to worsen until their physician discovers an adequate treatment method.
One of the common causes of diagnosis issues is a medical practitioner that fails to ask the medical opinion of other doctors that may be familiar with a certain illness. It is always better to have a team of doctors that can work together to determine what is wrong with a patient.
If you feel that your sickness is worsening and that your doctor has not consulted other practitioners, it would be wise to pursue a second opinion. Receiving a second opinion may reinforce the medical opinion of another doctor or may reveal that the other doctors did not correctly diagnose you.
If you received an incorrect diagnosis from one or more medical practitioners, you should also consider filing a lawsuit for your injuries. A successful medical malpractice lawsuit can secure the compensation you need to handle your medical bills and will send a message to doctors who may act negligently when treating a patient.
Statute of Limitations for Failure to Diagnose and Misdiagnosis Claims
Some medical conditions and diseases progress and cause damage very rapidly, and quick diagnosis and treatment can increase the patient’s chances for survival and complete recovery. A failure to diagnose or delayed diagnosis of breast cancer, colon cancer, lung cancer, other metastatic cancers, a heart attack, appendicitis, infections, stroke, and head injuries can have devastating effects because these conditions cause serious and irreparable harm very quickly. These diseases can progress to the point of being no longer treatable, many times leading to untimely death. Chances of survival can decrease rapidly the longer a doctor takes to diagnose a disease and begin treatment, which is why failing to diagnose can be so harmful. For example, those diagnosed with Stage I breast cancer have an 88% survival rate after five years, but those diagnosed with Stage IV breast cancer, which is more advanced cancer, have only a 15% five year survival rate.
How Would a Doctor Misdiagnose a Medical Condition?
Doctors and other medical professionals may fail to make a diagnosis or make a delayed diagnosis for several different reasons. Failing to order diagnostic tests, misreading x-rays, MRIs, CAT scans, and lab results, rushing through an examination, failing to take into account a patient’s medical history and potential risk factors, and failing to consult specialists can all cause a medical condition to be overlooked. Sometimes, a patient may be suffering from multiple conditions, making it more difficult for a doctor to make a correct diagnosis.
In other instances, symptoms a patient is experiencing may be vague or broad, or there may be a lack of diagnostic tests to make a definitive diagnosis. Failure to diagnose may also be the result of a very rare or unusual medical condition. Although these factors can make prompt and correct diagnoses more difficult, doctors are under an obligation to provide reasonable care under the circumstances, according to accepted standards in the medical community.
Failure to Diagnose Lawsuit Challenges
Bringing lawsuits involving medical practice, particularly those involving a doctor’s negligence in failing to diagnose a condition, can be extremely difficult. These types of cases often involve litigating against wealthy insurance companies, medical providers and hospitals who use their corporate power to deny claims and dodge responsibility. Those who have been injured due to the failure of a doctor to properly diagnose their condition should seek advice from an experienced personal injury or medical malpractice attorney to maximize their chances of recovery.
Experienced Philadelphia Failure to Diagnose Attorneys
If a physician or other medical professional failed to diagnose your condition or made a delayed diagnosis, you may be able to file a claim for medical malpractice if the misdiagnosis caused catastrophic injury or death, and the doctor did not meet the standard of due care. The experienced Pennsylvania personal injury lawyers of The Reiff Law Firm understand this highly complex area of the law, and together with a team of on staff doctors and nurses, will be able to fully investigate your claim. Delayed diagnoses or failing to diagnose may cause you or someone you love to undergo longer or more extensive medical treatment, endure more pain, or leave you with permanent conditions that require lifelong care.
For over 34 years, our experienced Philadelphia medical malpractice lawyers have litigated numerous claims of medical negligence, and have won hundreds of millions of dollars on behalf of generations of catastrophically injured victims and their families. If a medical mistake or failure to diagnose led to a catastrophic injury or wrongful death, contact one of our attorneys at (215) 246-9000 for a no-obligation, confidential consultation.