When it comes to medical malpractice, it’s not always a surgical error or a visible, physical injury that a jury can see. In fact, this is not the number one cause for a medical malpractice claim. There are the rare instances where a surgical tool is left inside the patient’s body, or a surgeon performed a procedure they were not qualified to perform, resulting in serious bodily injury to the patient. However, more than likely if a patient chooses to pursue a medical malpractice claim, it’s due to misdiagnosis.
Within this Shaked Law Blog series of medical malpractice articles, we’ll begin to explain exactly why misdiagnosis can cause as much injury to the patient as something such as a surgical error. We’ll also provide experienced personal injury attorney perspective on the scope of medical malpractice as a whole. In this article, we’ll investigate how misdiagnosis is another “invisible” area of personal injury law, and often when a patient suffers a diagnostic error be it from misread lab reports or a doctor who failed to recognize the correct illness, it becomes too late to seek the proper treatment.
Diagnosing physicians are on the front line of healthcare. They can be any doctor in any specialty, but many times a general practitioner will suspect an illness and refer the patient out to a provider who can confirm the suspected diagnosis. We trust our physicians to be thorough, provide expert care, and guide us toward the correct diagnosis so that we can be restored to health. In the case of severely or chronically ill patients, they’re relied up on to sustain their lives to the best of their abilities. They’re what stands between, or for, a patient getting the medical care they need to live a full life. Misdiagnosis is not as rare as one would think, and in extreme cases, can be fatal. In this article we’ll seek to explain diagnostic errors and the detriment delay-of-care can cause a patient.
Diagnostic errors are a serious issue, but can be a maze to navigate legally
There are no specific laws that regulate how diagnostic errors are handled within the scope of a lawsuit. However, there are cases that can act as precedent, and an experienced attorney will have access to one or more of these on hand to pull from for research purposes. Due to the lack of well-defined law surrounding diagnostic errors, the courts require certain criteria be met in order to compensate a victim financially for this kind of malpractice.
The medical misdiagnosis criteria is specific, strict, and straightforward
1. A doctor-patient relationship must have existed: this means that the patient must have been seen by the doctor and have established a rapport with the physician in some way. If the patient simply didn’t like what they were told by the physician and walked out of the office to avoid hearing a truthful diagnosis, there is more than likely little to no grounds for a lawsuit. However, if the patient entrusted the doctor with finding out what was wrong with them, only to become sicker while in their care due to being diagnosed with the wrong illness or not diagnosed at all, there may very well be grounds for a lawsuit.
2. A negligent doctor: a doctor in a hurry is a doctor toeing the line of negligence when it comes to caring for his or her patients. An exhausted doctor with a waiting room full of patients who has to work late does not make the best candidate for understanding each patient’s needs and symptoms. Negligence can occur when a doctor rushes through his or her time with the patient, often missing important details or ignoring the patient’s chief complaint altogether in favor of prescribing a drug that “should help”. Over-prescribing of medication is another common problem that can result in a medical malpractice lawsuit, and we will touch on this aspect of malpractice within this series of articles.
3. The physician’s carelessness physically/bodily harmed the patient: when the physician ignored the patient or skipped the details that could’ve lead them to correctly diagnosing the illness, did the patient’s condition deteriorate? If the answer is “yes”, there may be grounds for a medical malpractice lawsuit. In the case of misdiagnosis specifically, carelessness can come into play from the physician’s ignoring of symptoms or failing to pay attention to lab reports, diagnostic imaging, or the patient’s vital signs. All of these things can lead to the patient being told they’re “fine” only to find out they aren’t later, when it’s too late; or they can be given a terrifying diagnosis such as MS or Cancer, when that’s not what they have at all. The latter can lead to unnecessary treatment and surgical procedures while the former can lead to lack thereof.
Up next in Medical Malpractice: What Happens After Misdiagnosis, Negligence in the Healthcare Profession? Part 2
In Part 2 of our What Happens After Misdiagnosis series, we’ll take a better look at the specific injuries that often occur due to medical malpractice, and provide insight to how a personal injury attorney can obtain damages for clients with both physical and “invisible” injuries. The Shaked Law Blog focuses on fact-based, well-researched and informational articles that throw open the office doors and provide the kind of truth-telling the insurance companies hope injured victims never find out, from the perspective of a personal injury whose seen and tried it all, with highly endorsed success!