Doctors have a duty to their patients to deliver timely and accurate diagnoses. Although medicine is an inherently uncertain field and some diseases and medical conditions may have symptoms that mimic other conditions, medical professionals have a duty to deliver the most accurate diagnoses possible to their patients. When a doctor delivers an incorrect diagnosis, it could potentially endanger the patient’s life.
What Is a Misdiagnosis?
A misdiagnosis is simply an incorrect diagnosis. A doctor delivers a misdiagnosis when he or she fails to accurately diagnose a patient or diagnoses a patient with the wrong condition. In some cases, these issues are honest mistakes. Some medical issues share symptoms with others. However, doctors have an expectation to use a differential diagnosis process to accurately determine a patient’s condition. For example, the doctor begins by examining the patient’s symptoms and checking the patient’s vital signs to come up with a list of possible diagnoses. Then, the doctor must use a process of elimination to arrive at the most likely diagnosis.
It’s important to note that because honest mistakes can happen, you do not automatically have grounds for a medical malpractice claim if your doctor delivered a misdiagnosis. However, you would have grounds for such a claim if the doctor did not properly follow the differential diagnostic procedure or failed to account for certain aspects of your medical history or other factors present in your condition. Essentially, a doctor commits medical malpractice by misdiagnosis if another reasonable, similarly skilled doctor in the same situation would have likely arrived at the correct diagnosis. If you believe your misdiagnosis was due to the negligence of another or because the duty of care was not met, contact an Arizona medical malpractice lawyer to help you understand which legal route will be best for you.
What You Should Know About Malpractice Claims
If you or a loved one suffered due to a misdiagnosis, you may believe you have grounds for a malpractice claim. If so, your attorney will likely advise you as to what to expect from the lawsuit. Unlike other personal injury claims, a medical malpractice claim must typically pass through a medical review process from the medical board with jurisdiction over the defendant in the claim. The medical board will review the claim and then determine whether the claimant has grounds for legal action. If so, the claimant may then proceed with his or her lawsuit.
In a malpractice claim for a misdiagnosis, the plaintiff must prove that an official doctor-patient relationship existed between the defendant and the plaintiff. This means the doctor agreed to treat the patient and the patient agreed to the doctor’s treatment. Next, the plaintiff must prove that the defendant failed to meet the standard of care for the patient’s condition. This generally involves calling in an expert witness with a relevant background in medicine to testify as to whether the defendant’s diagnostic process was sound and appropriate for the patient’s condition.
Damages and Compensation for Misdiagnosis
Additionally, a patient only has grounds for a malpractice lawsuit for misdiagnosis if the misdiagnosis caused actual harm to the patient. In many cases, a misdiagnosis can lead to ineffective or inappropriate treatment and worsening of the patient’s condition. For example, if a doctor incorrectly diagnosed a patient with cancer and the patient underwent chemotherapy needlessly, this form of treatment entails severe adverse side effects and the patient could claim this experience as harm from misdiagnosis.
Ultimately, misdiagnosis is one of the most common reasons for filing malpractice claims in the United States. When a doctor diagnoses a patient, he or she has a professional duty to do so using appropriate diagnostic techniques and to meet the standard of care for the patient’s symptoms.
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