When a physician’s diagnostic error results in improper or delayed treatment, the patient’s condition can worsen, causing painful or irreversible medical complications, and even death. When a misdiagnosis results in injury, the victim may bring a medical malpractice lawsuit against the hospital, physician, or other medical personnel. A Boston injury lawyer can help you obtain the compensation you or a loved one deserves if you have been harmed by a misdiagnosis.
Not all diagnostic errors are created equal. Three factors must be present to justify a malpractice lawsuit following a misdiagnosis. These factors are:
- The existence of a doctor-patient relationship.
- Negligence – the physician did not provide the level of treatment that a competent physician would have provided under similar circumstances.
- The negligence resulted in injury.
If, for example, the first two factors were present but the misdiagnosis did not cause a measurable injury, a successful malpractice lawsuit is unlikely. Similarly, if the physician provided an exceptional standard of care, he or she probably won’t be found liable for malpractice, even if an injury occurred. A MA injury attorney can help you determine if you have a viable malpractice case.
Did Negligence Play a Role?
A misdiagnosis is not evidence of negligence on its own. Even a highly-skilled, competent physician can make diagnostic mistakes. The real question is: did the physician act competently? To determine this, the court will look at the steps the doctor took to arrive at the diagnosis. What did the doctor do, and what did the doctor not do? This involves an evaluation of the doctor’s differential diagnosis, which is the method used to identify a patient’s medical condition.
Following a preliminary evaluation, the physician will list possible diagnoses in their order of probability. Next, the physician considers each potential diagnosis and conducts additional observations of the patient to determine the probability of that particular diagnosis. To do so, he or she will order tests, request the opinion of specialists, and obtain the patient’s medical history. The goal is to rule out multiple potential diagnoses, whittling the list down to – hopefully – only one likely candidate.
Of course, it doesn’t always work out this way. In order to win a malpractice lawsuit, one of two things will have to be proven: a) the correct diagnosis didn’t appear on the differential diagnosis list, and a competent doctor would have included it, or b) the correct diagnosis appeared on the list, but the doctor failed to perform necessary tests.
Other Forms of Negligence
Even if the doctor isn’t liable for malpractice, someone else’s negligence may have injured a patient. For example, if a tech accidentally contaminated samples because he arrived at work late and was trying to complete a task too quickly. A third party can also be liable; for instance, a manufacturer may be on the hook if faulty equipment lead to a misdiagnosis.
Did the Misdiagnosis Harm the Patient?
In order to bring a successful legal claim, it must be shown that the misdiagnosis caused the medical condition to advance beyond where it would have had the misdiagnosis not occurred, and that the progression of the condition negatively impacted the patient’s treatment. If, for example, the patient had to undergo chemotherapy to treat cancer that advanced due to a misdiagnosis, the patient has a good chance of recovering damages. And if a physician misdiagnoses a patient with a life-threatening condition that he or she doesn’t have, the physician may be liable for causing undue stress or anxiety. Continue reading