Is misdiagnosis considered medical malpractice?
UPDATED: June 19, 2018
It’s all about you. We want to help you make the right legal decisions.
We strive to help you make confident law decisions. Finding trusted and reliable legal advice should be easy. This doesn't influence our content. Our opinions are our own.
Misdiagnosis can be medical malpractice when it is caused by the health care practitioner’s medical negligence. That said, it is important to remember that doctors or other health care practitioners are not required by law to get a correct diagnosis 100 percent of the time. A misdiagnosis can be arrived at through standard tests, even when the tests are performed accurately or evaluated by a skilled doctor with the utmost care. However, if as result of providing substandard care, the health care practitioner fails to diagnose or wrongly diagnoses his or her patient, and this results in injury and damages to the patient, this is medical malpractice.
Proving Misdiagnosis Is Medical Malpractice
To show that the misdiagnosis was medical malpractice, you must be able to prove that the health care provider misdiagnosed you because they gave you substandard care. A health care practitioner provides substandard care, or is medically negligent, when they treat or diagnose their patient in a way that a reasonable health care practitioner in the same field would not. Common examples of medical negligence include misinterpreting lab tests, diagnosing a benign tumor as malignant, or a malignant tumor as benign, and failure to screen or test a patient for a disease that they are at high risk for.
A misdiagnosis can lead to the wrong treatment for a patient’s actual condition, and in turn, a delay of the correct treatment. In some cases, a misdiagnosis can be deadly. For example, suppose a doctor told his patient complaining of heart pain, that it was acid reflux and sent him home with some medication. Then suppose the patient went home and had a heart attack. If the doctor ignored the particulars of the patient’s symptoms or failed to look at the patient’s medical records or heath history when making his diagnosis, this may be medical negligence. If, on the other hand, the patient's described symptoms were consistent with acid reflux, and the doctor concluded that the patient was otherwise healthy with no personal or family history of heart problems, this may not be medical negligence.
Supporting a Medical Malpractice Claim
Even in situations where there is negligent misdiagnosis, in order to support a medical malpractice claim, a patient will have to show that the cause of their further illness or injury was a direct result of the misdiagnosis, and would not have happened independently. Further, a patient must show that monetary damages resulted from the injury. Recoverable damages in a medical malpractice claim include loss of earnings incurred from the injury or illness, damages for pain and suffering, medical costs, and possibly emotional and punitive damages.
If you are not able to show that you suffered financially through time off work or through extra medical expenses incurred, it will be hard to recover in a medical malpractice case. In addition to showing damages, the patient also must mitigate their damages. This means, if a patient is not feeling better after the doctors prescribed treatment, they should go back to their doctor to discuss their continuing problems, or get a second opinion. If they do nothing, then any further illness or injury incurred will be considered partially their fault. As a result, any recoverable damages may be reduced.
Getting Legal Help
If you believe that you have sustained losses due to the negligence of a medical professional, you should seek the advice of a medical malpractice attorney Medical malpractice claims are notoriously complex, and the doctor or other health care professional will have a team of experienced defense attorneys on their side. A medical malpractice attorney will help guide you through your case, and ensure that your rights are protected.