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Misdiagnosis Is a Common Form of Medical Malpractice

Misdiagnosis Is a Common Form of Medical Malpractice

Misdiagnosis is a common form of medical malpractice. In fact, almost 20 percent of patients say they have received a misdiagnosis at some point in their lives. Misdiagnoses can take a variety of forms, including misinterpreted lab results, a doctor’s failure to prescribe the correct treatment, a doctor treating a patient for the wrong illness, and more. 

If you believe you have been a victim of misdiagnosis, it’s important to speak to a New York City medical malpractice lawyer as soon as possible. There are time limits for filing a claim, so you shouldn’t delay speaking to an experienced lawyer.  

Doctors Have a Duty to Diagnose 

Any time a patient visits a doctor, the doctor has a legal duty to adhere to generally accepted medical standards and procedures. This means doctors should follow the generally accepted procedures and protocols with respect to identifying an illness, verifying the illness, and diagnosing it.

To do this, doctors will usually go through a multi-step process that includes talking with the patient about their family history, their own medical history, and their symptoms. Doctors will also conduct a physical example and order any diagnostic tests that can help identify the illness. 

Missing any of these steps can result in a misdiagnosis. For example, if a doctor fails to ask about a patient’s family history, they might miss something important in the patient’s genetics, causing the doctor to overlook a potential disease. Similarly, if a doctor fails to order certain tests, they might misdiagnose the illness as something different. 

In some cases, doctors misdiagnose a patient because they make assumptions about the types of conditions a patient might have based on the person’s gender or age. For example, the patient might be presenting with symptoms that indicate a type of cancer that usually only appears in older patients, but the doctor might dismiss those symptoms if the patient is a younger person. These types of assumptions can lead to a misdiagnosis that causes harm to the patient.

Common Reasons Why Doctors Misdiagnose Patients

There are numerous reasons why a doctor might misdiagnose a patient. Some of the more common reasons include the following:

  • Not spending enough time with the patient – Many doctors see a lot of patients throughout the day. Unfortunately, it’s common for patients to feel like the doctor rushes into the exam room, spends a couple minutes, and then leaves, making the patient feel as though their concerns were dismissed or ignored. When doctors hurry through an appointment, they can miss important information, which causes them to misdiagnose a patient.
  • Failure to obtain a full patient history – In some cases, doctors fail to thoroughly review and capture the patient’s complete medical history. Patients might not know what kinds of information are important, which is why it’s up to the doctor to ask the right questions. Failure to do so can lead to a misdiagnosis.
  • Misinterpreting lab results or misreading test results – Doctors can misdiagnose when they misinterpret or misread a lab or test result. In some cases, a doctor should send a test or lab result to a specialist, such as a radiologist. When doctors fail to follow up with a specialist, this can lead to a patient’s misdiagnosis. 
  • Failure to follow up – When doctors fail to follow up with a patient who sought treatment for certain symptoms, this can lead to a misdiagnosis. In many cases, a doctor will prescribe a certain treatment, which can cause a condition to resolve. However, in some cases the treatment doesn’t work, and the condition persists or gets worse. If the doctor fails to follow up with the patient, they can miss serious health problems. 
  • Failure to refer to a specialist – There are many different kinds of medical specialties. For example, you wouldn’t see an orthopedic surgeon for a cardiovascular problem, as one doctor treats issues with the bones and the other specializes in heart conditions. When a doctor tries to treat a patient outside his or her area of practice, this can lead to misdiagnosis.

This is not an exhaustive list of ways a doctor can misdiagnose a patient. Just as every individual’s health is unique, cases of misdiagnosis and medical malpractice vary from person to person. This is why it’s important to discuss your unique case with a medical malpractice lawyer. 

Do You Have a Case for Misdiagnosis? 

To have a claim for medical malpractice, which includes misdiagnosis, your case must meet four elements.

  • There was a doctor and patient relationship – To have a claim for misdiagnosis, the doctor must have been your doctor and you must have been their patient. For example, if you asked a doctor friend about your sore ankle at a neighborhood barbeque and the friend wasn’t your actual doctor, you don’t have a claim for medical malpractice against that friend because they weren’t treating you.
  • The doctor deviated from the standard of care – While treating you, the doctor failed to follow generally accepted medical procedures in their practice area and region of practice.
  • The breach of the duty of care led to a misdiagnosis – Because the doctor breached their duty of care, this caused you to be misdiagnosed.
  • The patient suffered damages because of the doctor’s negligence – To have a claim for medical malpractice, you must suffer damages. If you didn’t actually sustain any damages due to the misdiagnosis, you can’t bring a claim for medical malpractice. 

It’s not just doctors who can be held liable for medical malpractice. If you have been the victim of medical malpractice in the form of a misdiagnosis, you may have a claim against a doctor, nurse, hospital, chiropractor, physician’s assistant, or other health care professional or facility.

For example, if you visited an urgent care because you were experiencing chest pain and a nurse practitioner misdiagnosed you as having pneumonia, you may have a claim for medical malpractice and, specifically, misdiagnosis. 

What Are Some Commonly Misdiagnosed Diseases?

While any health condition can be misdiagnosed, some conditions are misdiagnosed more than others. In many cases, this is because the condition shares symptoms with a different condition. Some of the most frequently missed and misdiagnosed illnesses include:

  • Cancer
  • Heart attack
  • Stroke
  • Pulmonary embolism
  • Lyme disease
  • Surgical injuries
  • Post-surgical infections
  • Glaucoma, retinal detachment and other eye diseases

Most of these illnesses and diseases show symptoms that are also associated with less serious illnesses. For example, the chest pain people often exhibit with a heart attack might  also occur with gastro-intestinal reflux disease (GERD) or “heartburn” from spicy food, so it is important that doctors make sure you do not have a serious life-threatening condition before they diagnose a less serious, although more common condition. 

Unfortunately, some patients may get turned away from medical treatment or even told they are imagining things or making up symptoms. When this happens, it can put a patient’s health and even life in danger. It can also result in the patient experiencing unnecessary pain and a diminished quality of life. 

What If a Doctor Treats You for a Condition You Never Had?

One form of misdiagnosis involves a doctor treating a patient for a disease or illness they never actually had. For example, a doctor may diagnose a patient with cancer, which results in the patient going through chemotherapy, radiation, and other aggressive treatments. The patient may even have life-changing surgery, such as a patient who had prostate surgery that left him impotent only to later discovery that he never had prostate cancer.

In these cases, a patient may be entitled to damages for the damages they suffered, which often includes pain and suffering, mental anguish, loss of enjoyment of life, medical bills, and future earning potential. 

How Much Is My Misdiagnosis Claim Worth?

No medical malpractice lawyer can predict in advance how much your medical malpractice claim is worth. However, an experienced medical malpractice lawyer can review your claim and your damages and give you an estimate of what you might expect to receive if you prevail on your claim. 

One factor to consider is that medical malpractice claims frequently require expert testimony in the form of medical professionals who must review your treatment records and how the doctor treated your condition. This is because part of establishing a medical malpractice claim involves proving that your doctor deviated from the standard of care. Expert testimony is an additional cost, which is why litigating medical malpractice claims can get quite expensive. 

The damages a patient can expect to receive varies from person to person, but here are some common damages you will see in medical malpractice cases:

  • Pain, suffering and mental anguish
  • Physicians’ bills
  • Medical equipment bills
  • Patient’s lost wages
  • Emergency room bills
  • Hospital bills
  • Home nursing services
  • Household services, including cleaning
  • Loss of companionship of a spouse
  • Loss of enjoyment of life
  • Lost wages
  • Loss of future earnings 

The point of damages in a medical malpractice case is to restore, as much as possible, the patient to their state before the misdiagnosis occurred. Obviously, courts know it’s impossible to erase what happened or to ever fully put someone back the way they were before. However, monetary compensation can help ease the burden of medical bills, lost wages, and other expenses a patient shouldn’t have to pay.

Discuss Your Case with a NYC Medical Malpractice Misdiagnosis Lawyer

If you or a loved one has been misdiagnosed by a doctor, hospital, or health professional, you may have a claim for medical malpractice. Because there are strict time limits for filing a claim, you should discuss your case with a New York City medical malpractice and medical misdiagnosis lawyer as soon as possible. An experienced lawyer can review your claim and help you determine the next steps in your case. 


Jonathan C Reiter Law Firm

Jonathan C Reiter Law Firm