You had been feeling bad for a little while, and decided it was time to go to the doctor. When you were finally able to get in for an appointment, the doctor ran a few tests and came back with a diagnosis. After you received your treatments and medication, you still weren’t getting any better, so the doctor had you back for more tests. Eventually, the days went by, and then the months—and you still weren’t improving. Finally, you sought a second opinion and the second doctor immediately discovered what was wrong. Unfortunately, your illness was allowed to linger for so long that you missed the optimum treatment time, and now you may not ever fully recover. Does this sound unfair to you? If so, you’re right and you’re not the only person who has gone through this terrible ordeal.
Delayed diagnosis is a type of medical malpractice in which a doctor’s mistake causes indirect harm to a patient. For example, a patient with a treatable form of cancer goes to the doctor for help, but the doctor’s absence of a correct diagnosis causes the patient to miss out on early treatment. The cancer eventually spreads throughout the body and leads to the patient’s death.
Although the doctor didn’t directly cause the death, he could still be implicated for his involvement. Even if the physician didn’t get involved and the patient never sought medical attention, the patient could have still died. But because the lack of a diagnosis and appropriate treatment caused this patient to lose his battle against cancer—when an appropriate diagnosis and medical treatment could have saved him—the doctor could be sued for medical malpractice due to a delayed diagnosis.
Proving Delayed Diagnosis
In order to prove to a judge that the doctor you sought treatment from is guilty of a delayed diagnosis, with the help of an experienced lawyer, you’ll have to prove three elements: a doctor-patient relationship, negligence, and harm caused by negligence. The following is a brief overview of the three elements:
- Establishing a doctor-patient relationship. Just about any time a patient visits a doctor for treatment, a relationship is established. In delayed diagnosis cases, patients must show that a relationship existed at some point during the sickness. The patient doesn’t have to show that a relationship occurred throughout the entirety of the sickness.
- Proving negligence. Patients must show negligence by establishing two things: standard of care and breach of that standard of care. “Standard of care” is the level of competence that most doctors would have achieved in similar circumstances. In delayed diagnosis cases, the standard of care is usually determined by figuring out how long it would have taken a reasonably competent doctor to diagnose the illness. The lawyer for the plaintiff would then have to prove that the standard of care was, in fact, breached.
- Showing harm by negligence. In order to win, a patient would have to prove that the doctor’s negligence caused the patient harm. The “harm” in question could be the cost of medical bills, pain and suffering, loss of the ability to enjoy activities the patient once did before the illness or injury, and loss of earning capacity.
A misdiagnosis occurs when a doctor believes that a patient has a condition that is actually different than what he really has, and treats for the wrong condition. The misdiagnosis could be due to the doctor’s error, but could also be caused by faulty diagnostics. For instance, if the test results came back wrong because the equipment that was used to conduct the tests was malfunctioning, or if human error at the lab—samples that were mixed up or tests that were performed incorrectly—caused the misdiagnosis, the doctor may not be held liable, as he had nothing to do with these errors.
If the patient can prove that the doctor was the person at fault for the misdiagnosis, and that the error caused the patient harm, he may be able to win his medical malpractice case.
If you believe a doctor’s mistake caused you or someone you love to needlessly suffer, the attorneys of Tavss Fletcher may be able to help. Contact us today by calling 877.960.3441 and schedule a consultation to speak with someone about your case.