If your doctor fails to diagnose a serious illness it may seem like grounds for a medical malpractice claim. But it is not always that simple. Medicine is not an exact science, and doctors are not required to be right every time they make a diagnosis.
Misdiagnosis may be malpractice if your doctor fails to get a complete medical history from you before making a diagnosis. It may also be considered malpractice if you have obvious symptoms of an illness, but your doctor fails to diagnose the illness. And, if your physician does not order appropriate tests, you may also have a medical malpractice claim.
When a doctor’s misdiagnosis leads to the wrong treatment or no treatment at all, a patient may become worse and even die. Still, there may not be grounds for a medical malpractice suit.
Patients must usually prove three things to sustain a malpractice suit based on a wrong diagnosis.
- A doctor-patient relationship existed
- The doctor didn’t provide treatment in a competent manner
- The doctor’s negligence caused injury to the patient
Most medical malpractice cases hinge on the last two – was the doctor negligent, and did the negligence cause harm to the patient?
There are several ways that physicians and other medical professionals can make diagnostic mistakes.
- Wrong diagnosis. Also called misdiagnosis, this is when the doctor picks the wrong illness.
- Missed diagnosis. The doctor gives the patient a clean bill of health, when in fact the patient has an illness or disease.
- Delayed diagnosis. The doctor eventually makes the correct diagnosis, but after significant delay.
- Failure to recognize complications. The doctor makes the right diagnosis, but fails to identify complications or factors which change or aggravate the illness or condition.
- Failure to diagnose a related disease. The doctor correctly diagnoses one disease, but fails to diagnose a related disease.
- Failure to diagnose an unrelated disease. The doctor correctly diagnoses one disease, but fails to diagnose a completely unrelated second disease.
It is also necessary to prove the standard of care within the local community.