Is misdiagnosis medical malpractice?

Posted in: Medical Malpractice | Feb 25,2022

We trust our medical professionals to follow professional standards, conduct themselves with competency, and avoid errors that inflict harm. When they misdiagnose, it is more than a disappointment or inconvenience–but many question, is misdiagnosis medical malpractice? That’s a fair question, and the answer is that misdiagnosis can rise to the level of medical malpractice. Unfortunately, extensive studies show that it is more commonplace than you might expect.

There are as many as 12 million misdiagnoses each year. That means approximately one in 20 diagnoses is missed or incorrect. The bottom line is that if you or someone you love seeks a medical diagnosis, there is a roughly 5% chance the condition could be misdiagnosed. Many of these misdiagnoses can be corrected or do not have incredibly harmful effects; however, for a percentage of those misdiagnoses, harm does result. That’s when it is time to retain an experienced medical malpractice attorney.

What is misdiagnosis?

Misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis can come from an array of sources. Some are strictly related to the actions and behavior of medical professionals. They might fall under human error. They could arise from inattentiveness, or a new caregiver unfamiliar with protocols. Someone may have misread a chart or, perhaps, not read it all. Examples of medical misdiagnosis include: 

Wrong diagnosis – The healthcare provider identifies an incorrect or non-existent disease.

Missed diagnosis – This can include a diagnosis that misses a second diagnosis of a related or unrelated disease. 

Delayed diagnosis – Late diagnosis that results in exacerbated or heightened disease. 

Failure to recognize complications – Having made the correct diagnosis, a physician may fail to recognize complicating factors.  

Faulty equipment – Equipment plays a role in incorrect diagnosis. It’s incumbent upon providers and manufacturers to maintain equipment properly. 

Misread or misinterpreted diagnostic tests – Providers are expected to show competency in interpreting the tests they run.

Some of the most commonly misdiagnosed conditions include:

  • Celiac disease
  • Appendicitis
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Lyme Disease
  • Lupus
  • Parkinson’s Disease
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Heart attack

When is a misdiagnosis considered medical malpractice?

A misdiagnosis can have no harmful effects whatsoever, or it can have catastrophic consequences; it all depends on the circumstances. A wrong diagnosis rises to the level of malpractice when it meets all of the following conditions: 

  1. A relationship between the patient and medical provider existed. 
  2. The medical provider was negligent and did not meet the profession’s standards. 
  3. There was significant harm caused directly by that negligence.

Diagnosis in healthcare settings should be a systemic process. Physicians often use a differential diagnosis process. The physician reviews patient symptoms, medical history, lab results, and physical condition to systematically rule out potential diseases or conditions. At the end of the process, they arrive at a conclusion. It’s when these processes are ignored, cut short, or sloppily-performed that mistakes can happen–mistakes that can cause grave harm to lives.

I Think I Was Misdiagnosed? What Should I Do?

If you think you’ve been misdiagnosed and are suffering unnecessary harm or damages, consider your situation. If you’re comfortable reaching back out to your doctor, tell them how you feel and ask for a reevaluation. Another option would be to seek out a second opinion. In other words, sit down with another doctor and ask for their opinion. 

If you do not need, or do not want, a second opinion and you think you fit the legal definition of medical malpractice, contact an attorney within the time allotted by your state’s malpractice guidelines. In Indiana, the statute of limitations is two years, with some exceptions. Contacting a lawyer can usually be done free and at no risk, so take care to find an experienced medical malpractice attorney versed in Indiana statutes with access to the respected medical experts.

It’s with your attorney that you’ll review the facts of the case, collect documentation if necessary, conduct interviews, and present to a medical review panel. Before you present to a panel, the facts of the case should help you confirm that 1) there was a patient-caregiver relationship, 2) that the caregiver failed to live up to their responsibilities in that relationship by not meeting the standard of care, and 3) that the breach of care was directly responsible for significant harm. 

How Can I Prepare for my Consultation?

An attorney will get a sense of the strength of your case in the first conversation. To prepare for a productive session, we suggest you: 

  • Assemble a list of all healthcare providers caring for you at or near the time of misdiagnosis. 
  • Outline the details of the treatment you received. 
  • Take photographs and keep a journal. Include in your journal the harm done, such as lost wages. Use paystubs or receipts where applicable. 
  • Gather documentation and contact information from your caregivers, pharmacy, and insurers. 
  • Put together a list of questions for your attorney.

Get medical attention and the care you need first. Being safe and as healthy as possible is the priority. Then, contact an experienced medical malpractice lawyer to get the sound legal advice you need. Even if you like your doctor, filing a lawsuit may be a necessary step. Working with your attorney, you can determine if you have a case or not.

How Much is My Case Worth?

The case merits and strong teamwork with your attorney can increase the likelihood of a higher settlement. While it’s challenging to arrive at an average settlement for misdiagnosis, you can look at past results to understand what type of cases yield substantial awards. An experienced medical malpractice attorney can help you evaluate your misdiagnosis case and determine if it is worth your considerable time and effort. If you think you or a loved one has suffered from medical malpractice by way of misdiagnosis, contact our office today.