Medical professionals have a responsibility to adhere to the standards and regulations of their practice. When they do not adequately do so, they may be sought for damages due to medical malpractice. Unnecessary or otherwise poor treatments can lead to years of suffering if not death for victims. Botched operations may leave individuals and their loved ones with long-term medical bills that could lead to financial ruin.
But, what about misdiagnosis? Can a simple mistake really be taken as medical malpractice? The answer is a resounding yes. In fact, misdiagnosis or failure to diagnose is one of the most common forms of medical malpractice in the medical field. Stick around to learn more about the details surrounding misdiagnosis and personal injury claims.
When Does Misdiagnosis Qualify as Medical Malpractice?
Misdiagnosis can be medical malpractice under qualifying circumstances:
1. The medical professional had a duty of care toward you
This means that there is a clear and direct doctor-patient relationship. You’ll need a formal diagnosis as part of a medical appointment for the misdiagnosis to be considered medical malpractice. So you can’t be in a relaxed setting with a doctor outside of medical care where they speculate or theorize a diagnosis.
2. Your medical care team breached their duty of care
A misdiagnosis can happen because some conditions are challenging to identify. Medical professionals breach their duty of care when they diagnose in a way that’s different from a reasonably competent doctor. One example of this might be failing to order additional tests when your condition doesn’t improve while under their care.
3. Misdiagnosis must be the direct cause of your harm
For example, you might be misdiagnosed with indigestion instead of heart problems. If you then suffer a heart attack because your medical professional did not render the proper treatment for your heart condition, there is a direct causal relationship.
4. You suffered damages due to the misdiagnosis
In some cases, medical treatment can apply to various health conditions. For example, sending a patient home with breathing treatments when misdiagnosing asthma as recurring bronchitis could still help treat your asthma. In this case, you didn’t suffer damages from the misdiagnosis because you had the necessary breathing treatments to provide relief when having an asthma attack.
Commonly Misdiagnosed Conditions
One in 20 patients will be misdiagnosed each year. While not all of these misdiagnoses are cause for serious alarm, as a patient it’s good to know what these commonly misdiagnosed conditions are. That way, you can pursue other medical treatment immediately if your symptoms do not improve under your current doctor’s care.
Strokes can be challenging to diagnose. But the proper diagnosis of a stroke is very time-sensitive. The longer it goes undiagnosed, the more damage the patient will suffer. Some common misdiagnoses include migraine, seizures, and conversion disorder.
If a patient has recently suffered a head cold or another upper respiratory ailment, a medical professional might not recognize asthma. Instead, doctors sometimes misdiagnose this condition as recurring bronchitis. But that diagnosis doesn’t always provide the treatments a patient needs to avoid severe asthma attacks.
Lupus is a condition that causes inflammation throughout the body. It can affect your body’s functions, including your heart and lungs. Too often, it is misdiagnosed as chronic fatigue or fibromyalgia. If left untreated, it can lead to strokes and other severe conditions.
4. Lyme disease
At first, Lyme disease is a minor discomfort leading to fever, headache, and fatigue. However, when left untreated, the disease can spread throughout your body, including to your nervous system and heart. Failure to diagnose can lead to lifelong problems and ailments.
What You Should Do if You Suspect Misdiagnosis
Depending on the gravity of your pain or medical concerns, you may want to go to an emergency room. Otherwise, seek medical assistance from a different physician and make sure to document your suspicions of misdiagnosis as well as their expert opinions.
A sign of misdiagnosis can be a lack of symptom improvement. Sometimes, victims wait too long to seek treatment from another doctor. Don’t wait for your symptoms to worsen before seeking help from a new medical professional.
When to Seek a Medical Malpractice Attorney
If you suspect you’ve suffered harm due to a medical professional’s improper care – whether that’s misdiagnosis or other poor medical care – you should seek counsel from a medical malpractice attorney.
Geoff McDonald & Associates in Richmond offers a free consultation to learn about your case and offer advice on the best next steps based on your circumstances. Contact us now to talk to a member of our team.