When Is a Misdiagnosis a Malpractice Case?
Misdiagnosis malpractice cases can be a little tricky. Misdiagnosis can happen frequently especially for diseases that are rare. As some rare diseases can have symptoms that are as common as as the common cold. For example, someone who doesn’t know they have SARS, Leptospirosis or Lyme disease could simply receive cold or flu medication especially during an actual cold season. To be considered a medical malpractice, the misdiagnosis or the failure to diagnose must be proven to have resulted in more harm to the patient due to delayed treatment, mistreatment or no treatment at all. Because diagnostic errors are pretty common (and why the practice of getting a second opinion is so prevalent), not all misdiagnosis malpractice cases result in a successful lawsuit.
For misdiagnosis malpractice cases to be successful, plaintiffs need to prove several things:
- That the doctor failed to live up to the standard of care depending on their specialties or even in general medicine terms. It may be a simple or routine diagnosis that another doctor of the same discipline would have easily detected. The physician in question must be in the right specialty. For example, the patient cannot consult a doctor of general family medicine for diabetes complications.
- That a doctor-patient rapport was evident and not a simple one-off casual encounter.
- That the doctor in question did not perform all the diagnostics in a checklist that he/she is fully aware of, thus not getting all the vital information.
- That a faulty lab test result has occurred due to faulty equipment and/or human error. This involves not just the physician, but the hospital or clinic as well in a misdiagnosis malpractice case.
- That the condition has actually worsened due to the misdiagnosis as opposed to maintaining a status quo. This is where the prescribed medication had no effect at all. A successful misdiagnosis malpractice case, for example, could be the failure to diagnose a cancer or the proper stage that it’s in.
- That there is a failure by the physician to refer another doctor or specialist, if the symptoms being treated show no improvement. Or that there was a failure to recommend screening for any other suspected medical condition.
Commonly misdiagnosed conditions
To avoid having to pursue any misdiagnosis malpractice cases, it’s prudent to be aware of some medical conditions that can easily be misdiagnosed. And which the doctor could be made aware of ahead of time.
- Cancer can be commonly misdiagnosed as symptoms could easily be mistaken for other conditions depending which organ is affected.
- Heart attack could be mistaken for a panic attack, indigestion or GERD.
- Lymph node inflammation could be misdiagnosed as appendicitis.
- Asthma could be misdiagnosed for bronchitis.
- A staphylococcus infection could be mistaken for the flu.
- A stroke could be mistaken for something else in younger patients as the possibility is minimal, but possible.