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Misdiagnosis & Failure to Diagnose

Misdiagnosis & Failure to Diagnose

The Risk of Misdiagnosis & Failure to Diagnose in Medical Malpractice Cases

When you trust a doctor to care for your medical needs, you expect them to make the correct diagnosis that gets you on the path to recovery. But, unfortunately, misdiagnosis or failure to diagnose by medical professionals happens more often than it should.

When this negligence causes harm to or the death of patients due to incorrect treatment, it can be classified as medical malpractice and may warrant financial damages for those affected. In this blog post, we will more closely examine the types and causes of misdiagnosis and failure to diagnose.

What Is Misdiagnosis?

Misdiagnosis occurs when a patient’s symptoms are labeled incorrectly by a doctor or misdiagnosed as something else entirely. This could lead to inadequate treatment or none at all.

In some cases, a condition may be passed off as something minor when it is actually life-threatening. Because of a misdiagnosis, patients may experience physical pain, psychological distress, financial loss, and even death if their conditions are not properly diagnosed in time.

Different types of misdiagnoses can occur, including:

  • Delayed diagnosis. When physicians lack knowledge of a patient's history, cases of delayed diagnosis can occur. This phenomenon is especially prevalent in emergency medicine due to limited physician-patient interaction time. Unfortunately, early detection and treatment are often essential for treating chronic illnesses such as cancer and heart attack; when an accurate diagnosis fails to arrive before the condition progresses beyond repairable measures, devastating consequences may follow.
  • Failure to recognize a related disease. In some cases, a physician might be able to accurately identify the primary issue that is causing distress or discomfort; however, for true healing to occur, any underlying conditions must also be addressed. For example, if an elderly patient were suffering from neuropathy then diabetes should necessarily be tested for - as uncontrolled blood sugar levels are proven to worsen this ailment. Thus evaluating both direct and indirect causes is necessary for long-lasting well-being.
  • Failure to recognize complications. Despite a precise medical diagnosis, physicians may overlook other factors that can amplify the complexity of an illness. For example, in cases of depression and similar mental health conditions, renal function should be tested along with any treatments given to avoid potential nephrotoxic side effects from prescribed drugs.
  • Failure to recognize an unrelated disease. Similar to failing to recognize a related condition, this type of misdiagnosis occurs when a medical professional incorrectly believe a symptom or condition is connected to your primary diagnosis.
  • Missed diagnosis. Even with a seemingly clear health report, having an undiagnosed medical condition can leave both physical and psychological repercussions. Unfortunately, rare or mild disease cases are often misdiagnosed due to their discreet nature.
  • Wrong diagnosis. Patients may be misdiagnosed due to incomplete symptom disclosure or errors in diagnostic tests, as several medical conditions can have similar symptoms. This highlights the importance of precise communication and accurate testing for proper diagnosis.

What Is Failure to Diagnose?

Failure to diagnose occurs when a doctor fails to recognize the signs and symptoms of an illness or injury until it’s too late for effective treatment. For example, a person who has cancer might visit their doctor multiple times over the course of months or even years before they receive an accurate diagnosis—if they receive one at all—due to the doctor’s failure to recognize the symptoms as indicative of cancer. In such cases, victims can suffer irreversible physical damage and psychological trauma due to delayed treatment or lack thereof altogether.

How Misdiagnosis & Failure to Diagnose Occur

There are several possible reasons why doctors may fail to diagnose illnesses correctly or neglect them altogether. These reasons include (but are not limited to):

  • poor communication between doctors and patients,
  • inaccurate tests,
  • misinterpretation of results,
  • lack of knowledge about specific illnesses,
  • lack of experience with certain types of illnesses,
  • overwork/tired medical staff,
  • poor documentation practices, medication errors, and
  • the use of outdated technology.

What Does a Plaintiff Need to Prove in a Failure to Diagnose Case?

Time is of the essence when pursuing a medical malpractice claim for misdiagnosis. In Alaska, you must bring a medical malpractice claim forward within two years of the occurrence or the discovery of the negligent incident.

As the plaintiff, you must be prepared to prove that members of your healthcare team failed in providing reasonable care expected from individuals with similar qualifications and experience. Specifically, you will need to prove that:

  • you established a doctor-patient relationship with the negligent party;
  • the liable party acted negligently or in a way that those with similar qualifications and training would not have; and
  • the negligent or reckless actions directly caused your injuries.

To learn more about proving misdiagnosis or failure to diagnose, read our blog, “How Do I Prove Delayed Diagnosis or Misdiagnosis?

Consult with Our Attorney

No one should ever suffer because their healthcare provider made a mistake in diagnosing their condition or failed to do so altogether. If you believe you have suffered harm because of a misdiagnosis or failure to diagnose, you may be able to pursue compensation for your damages.

At the Law Offices of David Henderson, our attorney can advise you of your legal options and help you build a strong case. We are known for providing high-quality, aggressive legal representation, and our firm is equipped to handle medical malpractice claims, including misdiagnosis and failure to diagnose cases.

To schedule a complimentary consultation, call (888) 295-6566 or complete our online contact form.


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