Each year, an estimated 12 million adults are misdiagnosed with a condition they don’t actually have — and researchers say that half of those errors could be potentially dangerous. A medical misdiagnosis can cause serious harm to a person’s health because it can delay treatment for the correct diagnosis. What’s more, the incorrect diagnosis means many patients receive unnecessary treatment, which can further complicate some conditions.
If you or a loved one suffered a worsening medical condition due to a medical misdiagnosis, you need to understand what it means, how it happened and whether it might be considered medical malpractice.
What Is Medical Misdiagnosis?
A misdiagnosis occurs when a doctor gives an incorrect medical diagnosis for any illness or condition. For example, a doctor might diagnose a patient with the flu when they are actually suffering from lupus. As a result of these errors, the patient does not receive the necessary treatment. Alternatively, the treatment they do receive may further aggravate the illness they’re suffering from.
Medical misdiagnosis most commonly involves either a delayed diagnosis or error in diagnostic testing. Misdiagnosis may also involve:
- Failure to screen for a particular medical condition
- Failure to refer a patient to a specialist
- Misinterpretation of lab test results
- Failure to properly consult with the patient regarding his or her symptoms
- Failure to investigate potential causes of symptoms the patient described
- Failure to follow up properly after an initial exam
- Equipment failure
Common Types of Misdiagnosis
In some cases, a medical misdiagnosis won’t adversely affect a patient, because the medical problem will simply run its course and the patient will heal, making the misdiagnosis irrelevant.
However, in other cases, the incorrect diagnosis is so far from the actual illness or condition that the resulting treatment (or lack of treatment) can cause death or debilitation. Some of the most commonly misdiagnosed conditions include:
- Cancer (a misdiagnosis here can result in unnecessary treatment using chemotherapy and radiation, which is debilitating and painful)
- Heart attack (this is generally mistaken for a panic attack, indigestion or other issue)
- Asthma (this can be misdiagnosed as recurring bronchitis)
- Lymph node inflammation (may be mistaken for appendicitis)
- Stroke (can be dismissed as migraine or other relatively minor issue, especially if the patient is young)
- Staph infection (may be misdiagnosed as common flu)
When Is Medical Misdiagnosis Classified as Malpractice?
In the eyes of the law, doctors are not always responsible for their errors in diagnosis. It’s critical to understand that even if one of these conditions — or other serious disease or medical condition — is misdiagnosed, there is no medical malpractice unless the patient, with the help of a medical personal injury lawyer, can prove three things:
- A doctor-patient relationship existed.
- The doctor was guilty of medical negligence, which means they did not provide treatment in a skillful and competent manner as would a similarly trained and experienced doctor.
- The doctor’s negligence caused actual injury or harm to the patient.
The injury or harm to a patient that must be proved may include an unnecessary surgery, an increased risk for complications, unnecessary exposure to risky treatments (such as chemotherapy or radiation therapy) and a higher risk of death.
Trusted Medical Malpractice Lawyers at Your Side
Given the complexity of medical malpractice cases, partnering with an experienced attorney is essential for winning your case. If you or a loved one has suffered from a medical misdiagnosis, you may be eligible to receive compensation for your damages. The nationally recognized medical injury lawyers of Janet, Janet & Suggs will fight tirelessly for your rights and the justice you deserve.
Contact us for a free consultation to discuss your case and understand your rights. We’re here to represent your case so that you can focus on your recovery.