While most of a doctor’s job involves treatment for your injuries, illnesses, or other conditions, this treatment is impossible without a diagnosis. Diagnosing your condition is one of the first steps to any competent healthcare.
Healthcare providers and hospitals have many tools at their disposal to help them make the proper diagnoses and start treatment right away. Imaging tools, lab tests, and exploratory procedures all help healthcare professionals figure out what is wrong and get to work fixing it.
Sometimes, though, doctors ignore, misinterpret, or misunderstand test results. Occasionally, this is understandable – not every test is perfect, and some conditions have very similar symptoms and test results. Other times, patients suffer delays in their treatment, or go through unnecessary treatments for conditions they do not have, all due to a doctor’s errors.
If you or a loved one has suffered from delays in diagnosis, misdiagnosis, or complete lack of diagnosis, you may be entitled to compensation. Especially if the improper diagnosis lead to death or serious injury, either from the treatments themselves or the lack of treatment, compensation may be high. To speak to experienced medical malpractice attorneys in Baltimore, contact the lawyers of Bennett and Heyman, P.A.
Types of Diagnosis Errors
In medicine, diagnosing an illness, injury, or condition is the first step toward getting the patient treatment. When the first step is wrong, the entire course of treatment could go wrong. During this time, patients’ conditions may get worse. These are some of the most common diagnosis errors healthcare professionals make:
Failure to Diagnose
Failure to diagnose usually refers to a situation where the doctor thinks that a patient is healthy when there is actually a problem, or cannot figure out what is wrong with the patient.
Ultimately, a doctor is responsible for failing to diagnose a condition that should have been identifiable. Sometimes, doctors need to ask for help, and failing to discuss the difficult diagnosis with other physicians may fail the patient. If certain tests should have been performed, but were not, that can also be cause for holding the doctor accountable for a failure to diagnose. Other times, doctors are simply incompetent and miss obvious signs and symptoms.
Delay in Diagnosis
Sometimes doctors do properly diagnose a patient, but take far too long to do so. This may be because the illness was difficult to diagnose, but it could also be because the doctor failed to provide the proper care.
Any of the issues with failure to diagnose can occur with a delay in diagnosis, too. Failure to run tests, misinterpreting test results, or waiting to seek help for the diagnosis can waste precious time for a patient.
For many medical issues, time is of the essence. Strokes, heart attacks, and other cardiovascular issues need immediate care to prevent harm. Cancer or infections can continue to grow while a diagnosis is delayed, and may become untreatable if left too long.
When a delay in diagnosis harms a patient, they are able to recover for any increase in the severity of their condition. This increase is compared to what would have happened if the diagnosis had been timed correctly. If the delay lengthens the suffering or increases the harm, all of that increase is something the patient can be compensated for.
Misdiagnosis refers to when a doctor actually does give a diagnosis (rather than waiting), but that diagnosis is wrong. This means that the patient suffers the effects of a failure to diagnose, but that the patient may also receive treatment for a condition they do not have.
One of the best examples of a misdiagnosis case is when a doctor wrongly diagnoses a patient with cancer. The treatments involved in fighting cancer are very harsh on the body. Chemotherapy literally poisons the body to fight the cancer, plus exposure to radiation and surgical procedures can be very harmful and risky if they are not necessary.
On top of that, the mental effects of a cancer diagnosis are unthinkable. The fear of death, the uncertainty, and the effects on your family that a cancer diagnosis brings can be extremely painful.
If all of this physical pain and mental anguish was unnecessary, because a patient did not actually have cancer, all these harms can be compensated. On top of that, their underlying condition may have gone untreated during this period. The worsening of the true condition is something the patient can also be compensated for.
As referenced above, a doctor can only be held accountable for treatment – or failure to treat – if it falls below a certain level. In any medical malpractice, the patient must prove the doctor had a duty to the patient, breached that duty, and that the breach caused the patient to suffer some harm.
Proving the doctor’s duty often requires testimony from other doctors and medical experts about what they would have been able to do in the same situation, with the same information. If others would also have been unable to diagnose the condition, or would have made the same incorrect diagnosis, then the patient cannot be compensated for their harms.
Alternatively, since the doctor’s failure must cause the harm, if the harm was unavoidable, the doctor may not be responsible. For instance, a patient with advanced, late-stage cancer may be impossible to save, even if the doctor’s care was perfect. This also blocks a doctor from being held responsible.
If the diagnosis was wrong, but the treatment still fixed the issue, if may be difficult to prove the patient was actually harmed by the misdiagnosis. This could also defeat a case.
Cases are easier to prove if the evidence and memories of those involved are fresh. Delay in bringing a lawsuit may make this harder, or block the case altogether due to deadlines. Speak to an attorney about your case as soon as you can.
Baltimore Medical Malpractice Attorneys
The lawyers at Bennett and Heyman, P.A., have decades of experience dealing with medical malpractice cases and helping injured clients seek compensation. If you or a loved one has suffered because of a failure to diagnose, delay in diagnosis, or misdiagnosis, talk to an attorney immediately. For a free consultation with our lawyers, call today at (410) 429-7856.