Is misdiagnosis automatically considered medical malpractice?
No. A misdiagnosis isn’t automatically considered a medical malpractice. Medical malpractice occurs when a medical professional fails to provide a patient with standard medical care and the patient is harmed. Whether it’s considered medical malpractice or a patient receives money because of the misdiagnosis are separate questions. A patient must prove a misdiagnosis happened to receive money.
What is a Medical Misdiagnosis?
A misdiagnosis is an inaccurate, or wrong, diagnosis of a health problem. It’s considered a medical error. Common types of wrong diagnosis include:
• Recurring bronchitis instead of asthma
• Panic attack or indigestion instead of a heart attack
• Cancer instead of another medical condition
• Migraine instead of a stroke
• Flu instead of a staph infection
• Appendicitis instead of lymph node inflammation
A misdiagnosis may involve making the wrong diagnosis, mismanagement of diagnostic testing or:
• Failure to refer a patient to a specialist
• Failure to screen for a specific medical condition
• Failure to properly investigate or follow up of a particular illness or symptom
• Failure to properly interpret lab test results
Proving a Medical Misdiagnosis was Medical Malpractice
Medical malpractice law doesn’t find every medical professional liable for a misdiagnosis. It is the responsibility of the patient to prove the medical malpractice practice occurred. A patient must prove the following:
1. The patient hired the medical professional and they agreed to be hired
The law requires a doctor-patient relationship. This means the patient didn’t seek medical advice from the medical professional, but sought treatment. The doctor-patient relationship creates a duty. The medical professional has a duty to treat the patient, provide them with standard care and not cause an injury.
2. The medical professional breached the duty
When a treating medical professional breaches the duty not to harm, substandard care was given to the patient. Standard care is treatment another medical professional would provide in the same or similar situation. Substandard care is the type of care another medical professional wouldn’t provide in the same or similar circumstances.
For example, another medical professional would have diagnosed the patient with a heart attack instead of a panic attack. The law doesn’t have a specific rule regarding what is standard care. That’s why personal injury lawyers use medical experts to prove another medical professional would have properly diagnosed the patient.
3. The medical professional’s breach of duty was negligent
A delayed diagnosis or misdiagnosis isn’t concrete evidence of negligence. A medical professional providing standard care can make a medical error. To determine if a delayed diagnosis was negligence, the differential diagnosis method is used. The method helps doctors identify a patient’s condition or disease.
A personal injury attorney will have to prove the medical professional didn’t correctly use the method as another colleague would have in a similar or same situation. A lawyer may show the medical professional failed to perform the appropriate tests or seek a specialist’s opinion.
If the misdiagnosis was because of a wrong diagnosis, a doctor may claim there were inaccurate results. These inaccurate results may be due to human error or faulty equipment.
4. The medical professional’s negligence led to the patient’s injuries
The law assumes the patient was already injured at the time of treatment. Thus, the medical professional may be negligent, but didn’t harm the patient. A patient proves the injuries occurred by showing damages. Damages, or money, they can sue for includes:
• Medical bills
• Lost wages
• Pain and suffering
• Lost earning capacity
• Death of a loved one
Contact a Personal Injury Lawyer to determine if a Misdiagnosis was medical Malpractice
Medical malpractice is complex. A patient may be injured, but the law doesn’t assume a medical professional caused the injury. A lawyer will determine how to proceed with the medical malpractice claim. The wrongful party such as the doctor or hospital may settle out of court. There could be a trial. To learn more, contact a personal injury lawyer.