Is a Medical Misdiagnosis Considered Malpractice?

April 2, 2018
Legally Reviewed By Attorney Rand Spear, Esq.

It isn’t surprising that a misdiagnosis – especially of a serious illness – can have devastating consequences. What may surprise you is just how often misdiagnoses happen. It’s estimated that as many as 20 percent of patients’ cases are misdiagnosed, which is more than medication errors and surgical mistakes, both of which garner much more attention.

Even though misdiagnosis is more common, proving that its medical malpractice can be very complex, which means that it requires the knowledge and experience of a seasoned medical malpractice attorney to handle these types of cases.

How Misdiagnosis Happen

There are a couple of ways that a misdiagnosis can happen. One way it occurs is when a doctor diagnoses a patient with an illness or condition, when they are actually suffering from a completely different one. Some examples of this type of misdiagnosis are:

Cancer is misdiagnosed as one of many different conditions, depending on the specific symptoms

Heart attacks may be misdiagnosed as anxiety or indigestion

Staph infections may be mistaken for the flu

Lymph node inflammation may be mistaken for appendicitis

Strokes can be misdiagnosed for a migraine headache, especially when the patient is young as strokes are not common to younger people

Asthma may be misdiagnosed as chronic bronchitis

Diagnosing and treating the incorrect illness or condition isn’t the only manner of misdiagnosis that happens. In fact, the most common cases of misdiagnosis happen due to a delay in diagnosis or to the mismanagement of diagnostic testing. Examples of these types of misdiagnoses are:

Incorrectly evaluating lab tests

Failure to complete the appropriate tests for the patient’s symptoms

Failure to refer patients to appropriate specialists

Failure to follow-up with patients, their test results, and involved specialists

Failure to take adequate time with a patient to allow for an accurate diagnosis

Misdiagnoses That May Be Deemed Medical Malpractice

There are three main situations in which a misdiagnosis can be considered medical malpractice:

Misdiagnosed Condition – This is when a doctor attributes a patient’s symptoms to one illness or condition, when they are actually attributable to a different one.

Overlooked Diagnosis – This is when a patient’s illness or condition is missed or overlooked.

Delayed Diagnosis – This happens when a patient’s illness or condition is not diagnosed in a timely manner, resulting in the patient’s condition worsening.

All of the above misdiagnoses can have serious negative consequences on the health of patients – even death.

Proving Medical Malpractice in Cases of Misdiagnosis

Proving misdiagnosis is subject to the same elements of other medical malpractice cases. It must be shown that the doctor was negligent and deviated from the accepted standard of care and that the negligence caused the patient to suffer injuries. Not all cases of misdiagnosis are medical malpractice, so it is important that patients (or their families, in cases where a death as occurred) who have suffered a misdiagnosis, seek the help of an attorney to determine if all the necessary elements are present.

If you or a loved one has been a victim of misdiagnosis, and you feel that you have suffered injuries, you need the expertise of a qualified medical malpractice lawyer to advocate for you. Rand Spear and his team of lawyers will fight for you and your family and pursue the compensation you are entitled to for your misdiagnosis case.

Prior results cannot and do not guarantee or predict a similar outcome with respect to any future case. Recoveries always depend upon the facts and circumstances of each case, the injuries suffered, damages incurred, and the responsibility of those involved. This article is not to be considered advise, only the execution of the contingency agreement with this law firm will constitute an attorney-client relationship. The contents of this article are for general information only. If you would like to pursue a claim please contact an attorney immediately to discuss your specific facts and circumstances regarding your claim. Some cases accepted by this law firm may be referred to or worked on by other lawyers, depending on the area of practice and specifics of a particular case.