Medical Misdiagnosis: What Is It and How To Handle It

Saturday June 11, 2022

Doctors have a duty to their patients to act competently and abide by set medical standards of care. The laws of medical malpractice are used when doctors fail to meet this standard, causing their patients injury or harm.

A medical misdiagnosis can result in a patient needing lifelong treatment or suffering debilitating damage or even death. In the United States, 12 million people are medically misdiagnosed every year. If you think you or a loved one has suffered or died because of a medical misdiagnosis, consider hiring a lawyer to help you bring a misdiagnosis lawsuit against the doctor or hospital staff. 

What Is a Medical Misdiagnosis? 

A medical misdiagnosis is when a doctor or a medical professional diagnoses a patient incorrectly. Common diseases misdiagnosed by doctors include cancer, stroke, and meningitis.

Some examples of a medical misdiagnosis include:

  • Heart Attack: A patient goes to the ER because of chest pain but is diagnosed with indigestion and discharged. The patient later suffers a heart attack. The chest pain was a symptom of a heart attack.
  • Stroke: A patient goes to the ER for a terrible headache. The patient is diagnosed with a migraine and discharged. Later, the patient suffers a stroke and loses movement on the right side of their body. A terrible headache is sometimes a symptom of a stroke.
  • Aortic Dissection: A patient goes to the ER with stomach pain. The patient is diagnosed with food poisoning and discharged. The patient dies later that night due to an aortic dissection. His aorta ruptured, killing him instantly.

What Is the Difference Between Misdiagnosis and Delayed Diagnosis? 

Misdiagnosis and delayed diagnosis are both types of medical malpractice. In a medical misdiagnosis, the doctor diagnoses you with the wrong condition. As in the above example, if a doctor diagnoses a patient’s headache as a migraine instead of what it actually was — a stroke — this would be a misdiagnosis. 

In contrast, a delayed diagnosis is when the doctor fails to diagnose a condition at all. The condition then gets significantly worse, making treatment less effective. For example, suppose a patient goes to his doctor for constant lethargy. The doctor orders a blood test and sees that his kidney levels are off. The doctor does not say anything until the patient comes back several months later. This time the doctor diagnoses the patient with kidney failure and the patient now needs dialysis.

In the first example, the doctor incorrectly concluded that the patient had a migraine when it was actually a stroke. In the second example, the patient experienced delays in treatment because the doctor did not diagnose their kidney failure right away. 

Examples of Errors in Diagnosis 

Medical professionals can make these diagnostic errors. Common errors in diagnosis include the following:

Symptoms are similar to the symptoms of other medical conditions

Poor and ineffective communication between the medical professionals and the patient, as well as themselves 

Failing to order certain diagnostic tests or to confer with different specialists

Incompetence in reading test results

Failing to incorporate a patient’s medical history into the diagnosis

How To Know if You Have a Medical Misdiagnosis Case 

To know if you have a medical misdiagnosis case, you need to hire a medical malpractice lawyer. They will be able to determine if your case meets the following criteria needed to prove a medical malpractice claim:

  • A doctor-patient relationship must exist.
  • The standard of care the medical professional was obliged to follow was breached.
  • The breach caused harm to the patient.

Duty of Care Fell With the Doctor 

First, you must be able to show that the doctor owed you a duty of care. All doctors and medical professionals owe duties of care to their patients. This means you must be able to prove that a doctor-patient relationship existed. To do this, you need to show that the doctor or medical professional accused of medical misdiagnosis was involved in the medical decisions.

Duty of Care Was Breached 

Next, you must show that the duty of care was breached. You can do this by illustrating the standards of care that medical professionals are required to follow. You must prove that another doctor would not have come to the same conclusion and would have correctly diagnosed the medical condition. 

Harm Was Caused in Return 

Lastly, you must prove that you were harmed. This harm needs to be the direct result of the breach in the standard of care.

Why Is a Misdiagnosis Serious and Considered Medical Malpractice? 

Misdiagnosis is serious. It can delay the correct diagnosis, cause delays in treatments, and may even lead to a death-threatening situation. Misdiagnosis is considered medical malpractice because of the severe complications it can cause for the harmed individual. 

Delays the Correct Diagnosis 

One of the main issues with misdiagnosis is that in discharging the patient with a wrong condition, the real condition is not treated. This is especially problematic for some conditions that require an early diagnosis to receive effective treatment. 

Patient Won't Receive the Medical Treatment Needed 

If a patient is misdiagnosed, they will not receive the correct medical treatment, which could lead to more serious complications.

Patient Condition May Worsen Over Time 

Without receiving proper medical attention, the patient’s condition may worsen over time, possibly delaying treatment to the point that it is no longer effective. For example, early diagnosis of cancer is imperative for a patient to have a positive outcome. If too much time goes by without a proper diagnosis, the patient's condition could potentially affect their quality of life or lead to an early death.

What You Should Do if You Experience Medical Misdiagnosis

If you think you or a loved one were the victims of medical misdiagnosis, contact Kennedy, Johnson, Schwab & Roberge, LLC immediately. Under Connecticut law, the time to file a medical malpractice claim (the statute of limitations) is within two years from the negligent act. If the injury was not present at the time of the medical misdiagnosis, then you have two years from the date of discovery of the injury or two years from when you should have discovered the injury to bring a misdiagnosis lawsuit. 

We have three decades of experience in defending our clients in both settlements and in the courtroom. Don't hesitate — contact us today.

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At Kennedy, Johnson, Schwab & Roberge, L.L.C., we handle all cases on a contingency fee basis. This means that we do not get paid unless and until you receive a settlement or a jury award.

Schedule a free, confidential consultation with a skilled Connecticut personal injury lawyer today.

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