Misdiagnosis or Failure to Diagnose in Medical Malpractice Claims

by John McKiggan

“What’s the difference between Misdiagnosis and Failure to Diagnose?”

The majority of medical malpractice claims that I am asked to review involve either a misdiagnosis of a medical condition (recognizing the symptoms but getting the diagnosis wrong) or the failure to diagnose a medical condition (not recognizing that there is a medical problem that requires treatment).

Making a mistake may not be malpractice

Just because the doctor that treated you made a mistake in diagnosing your illness, or failed to diagnose your illness at all, does not necessarily mean that you have a medical malpractice claim.

“How do I know when misdiagnosis is malpractice?”

There are a number of questions that need to be answered in order to determine whether a misdiagnosis (or failure to diagnose) actually led to medical malpractice:

What were you symptoms that you described to your doctor?

What was the misdiagnosis (wrong diagnosis)?

What was the correct diagnosis?

Who eventually gave you the right diagnosis?

How long did it take before you received the correct diagnosis?

How long did it take before you received proper treatment? (For example, was it weeks, months, or years?)

If your doctor doesn’t properly diagnose your symptoms, but another doctor discovers the problem shortly afterwards, you may have difficulty proving that a delay of a few days or weeks or even months made a difference in the outcome of your illness.

Long delays may not matter

There are some medical conditions where even a long delay in diagnosis has little effect on the outcome (or prognosis) of the patient’s treatment. For example, some types of cancer (pancreatic) have such a bad prognosis (outcome) that there is little that can be done no matter how much time you have to seek treatment.

On the other hand, some types of cancer grow so slowly that even a long delay in diagnosis will not affect the eventual outcome of the illness. For example, prostate cancer grows very slowly. The majority of men over the age of 50 have some early signs of prostate cancer. But prostate cancer usually grows so slowly that other types of illnesses (or old age) cause the patient’s death long before the prostate cancer.

But even short delays can be critical

On the other hand, there are some types of medical conditions that are so serious that a delay of hours or even minutes can make the difference between whether the patient will have a favorable outcome or be left totally and permanently disabled. For example, subdural hematomas (bleeding on the brain) or epidural abscesses (a lesion on the spinal cord) are medical emergencies where a delay of hours can be deadly.

Every case is different

The simple fact is that just because your doctor may have made a mistake in diagnosing your illness, or may have delayed in coming up with the proper diagnosis, does not mean that you have the grounds for successful medical malpractice claim.

The bottom line

The bottom line is that your medical malpractice claim will depend on the specific facts in your case. If you think you or a family member have been the victim of medical malpractice, you should get the advice of an experienced medical malpractice lawyer as soon as possible.

If you are looking for a Nova Scotia Medical Malpractice Lawyer you can contact me for a free copy of my book: The Consumers Guide to Medical Malpractice Claims in Canada: Why 98% of potential medical malpractice victims never receive a penny in compensation.

If you believe you or a family member believe you may have been injured as a result of medical malpractice you can contact me through this blog, or call me toll free at 1-888-647-7201.

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