MISDIAGNOSIS VS. DELAYED DIAGNOSIS: HOW OFTEN DOES IT OCCUR?
Misdiagnosis and Delayed Diagnosis are two of the most common forms of unsafe medical care. Reports suggest that upwards of 40% of medical malpractice cases involve either a misdiagnosis or a delay in diagnosis. Both of which pose serious patient safety issues, including death.
Misdiagnosis occurs when a doctor diagnoses his patient with the wrong illness or condition. For example, a doctor might improperly conclude that a patient is suffering from hyperventilation, when in reality the patient is suffering a heart attack. On the other hand, a delayed diagnosis happens when the patient is given the correct diagnosis, but its given with a significant delay that adversely affects the patient. Unfortunately, delayed diagnosis is a common situation, and often occurs when a doctor fails to timely order tests such as laboratory studies (blood work) or breast imaging studies. Doctors are required to test, not guess.
Misdiagnosis and delayed diagnosis are closely related, and sometimes one patient can suffer from both. For example, an original misdiagnosis causes a delay in the correct diagnosis, which forces the patient to undergo additional or otherwise unnecessary treatment.
Misdiagnosis can lead to serious health problems not only because patients are not being treated for the illness they actually have, but also because they may be treated for an illness they do not have. Often the unnecessary treatments can be severe and cause significant suffering. When this occurs patients can seek legal assistance to recover for the loss of chance of a better recovery or even loss of a better chance of survival that has been suffered by the unsuspecting patient.
On the flip side, delayed diagnosis may be the most common diagnostic error made by medical professionals. Failure to receive timely treatment can mean the difference between life and death, particularly when conditions like cancer are involved. It goes without saying that with cancer, time is of the essence. In some circumstances, patients suffer severe physical and emotional pain from the spread of cancer that is too advanced for medical treatment. The delay in diagnosis of cancer in some cases is effectively a death sentence.
Often medical malpractice patients affected by a delayed diagnosis are not even aware of the situation. Since the doctor may eventually find the problem, some patients may be under the mistaken assumption that the doctor is not legal accountability for the malpractice. However, the law recognizes that delays in diagnosis can be just as damaging as the failure to diagnose.
In terms of misdiagnosis, the patient must show that other physicians in a similar specialty, under similar circumstances, would not have misdiagnosed the patient’s disease or illness. Did the doctor fail to err on the side of patient safety? Similarly, in delayed diagnosis cases, the patient must show that a “reasonable doctor” would have made the diagnosis sooner, and that an earlier diagnosis would have prevented harm. Experienced medical malpractice lawyers can explain how these issues can be proven in your particular case.
If you or a loved one have been the victim of a misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis of an illness or disease, we are here to help.