Is My Misdiagnosis Considered Malpractice?


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It should come as no surprise that the repercussions of a misdiagnosis can harm a patient’s health and perhaps even result in death. What may be surprising is that misdiagnoses are a fairly common mistake. It is estimated that 10 to 20 percent of patients’ cases are misdiagnosed, which is higher than the rate of medication mistakes and surgery on the wrong body part – both of which receive far more attention. Even so, proving that a misdiagnosis is malpractice is complicated, and it requires the expertise of a qualified malpractice attorney to determine if there is a possible case.

How Do Misdiagnoses Happen?

Sometimes a misdiagnosis happens when a doctor diagnoses a patient with one condition or illness, when it is actually a completely different condition. Some of the most common of this type of misdiagnosis are:

  • A heart attack can be mistaken for indigestion, anxiety or panic attack.
  • A staph infection may be misdiagnosed as the flu.
  • A stroke can be mistaken for a migraine, especially when the patient is younger.
  • Lymph node inflammation can be misdiagnosed as appendicitis.
  • Asthma can be mistaken for chronic bronchitis.
  • Cancer can be misdiagnosed as various different conditions, depending on the symptoms.

Diagnosing the wrong condition isn’t the only way that a misdiagnosis can happen. As a matter of fact, most cases of misdiagnosis involve either a delayed diagnosis or mismanagement of diagnostic testing, as opposed to mistaking one illness for another. Some of the common reasons for delayed diagnosis and mismanagement of testing includes:

  • Failure to complete standard tests for symptoms.
  • Evaluating lab results incorrectly.
  • Failure to refer patient to a specialist.
  • Failure to take the time with the patient to adequately address symptoms.
  • Failure to follow up with patients, their lab results, and with the referred specialists.

Types Of Misdiagnoses That May Be Considered Malpractice

Overlooked Diagnosis – When a diagnosis is overlooked, or missed, it means that a patient may not receive the proper treatment for their condition, resulting in added suffering for the patient as the condition progresses, sometimes to the point where proper treatment will no longer be effective.

Misdiagnosed Condition – This occurs when a physician attributes symptoms to one condition, when they are clearly attributable to another. If this happens, the actual illness of the patient goes untreated and may result in worsening symptoms. Additionally, when a patient is diagnosed with the wrong condition, medications and treatments may be prescribed unnecessarily, which may have side effects that result in more unrelated medical conditions.

Delayed Diagnosis – This type of misdiagnosis happens when a doctor fails to diagnose a patient in time, resulting in the worsening of the patient’s condition. Sometimes, a delay in the proper diagnosis can result in the illness progressing so far that treatment will no longer be effective. If the patient had been diagnosed promptly and treated accordingly, he or she may have survived the illness.

Proving Malpractice In Misdiagnosis Cases

Proving that malpractice occurred in cases where a patient was misdiagnosed requires the same conditions to be met as with any malpractice case.

First: the doctor was negligent by deviating from the standard of care that another doctor, with the same qualifications, would have provided.

Second: the doctor’s negligence caused harm to the patient.

That means that not every misdiagnosis is a case of malpractice. If a misdiagnosis is made, but the patient does not suffer injury due to the mistake, then it is not considered malpractice.

When both conditions for malpractice are met, then patients or their families may be able to sue for malpractice. Because these cases are complicated legally, as well as medically, representation by an experienced medical malpractice attorney who is also knowledgeable in the medical field, is needed to proceed with a lawsuit.

Get Help Now At Ross Feller Casey

If you or a family member were misdiagnosed by your physician, it is important that you seek both legal and medical advice. Ross Feller Casey has seasoned medical malpractice attorneys and a team of nationally recognized doctor-lawyers on staff ready to review your medical records and determine if you have a lawsuit.

There is a statute of limitation on medical malpractice lawsuits, so don’t delay in calling one of our malpractice attorneys. Your time may be running out to make a claim.

All cases at Ross Feller Casey are handled on a contingency basis, so there will never be a cost to you unless there is a financial recovery. Please contact us for a free consultation and review of your case. 

Disclaimer: Ross Feller Casey, LLP provides legal advice only after an attorney-client relationship is formed. Our website is an introduction to the firm and does not create a relationship between our attorneys and clients. An attorney-client relationship is formed only after a written agreement is signed by the client and the firm. Because every case is unique, the description of awards and summary of cases successfully handled are not intended to imply or guarantee that same success in other cases. Ross Feller Casey, LLP represents catastrophically injured persons and their families in injury and wrongful death cases, providing legal representation in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.