Is Misdiagnosis Considered Medical Malpractice?

by NPHM | August 17th, 2020

The answer: it depends.

When you visit your doctor, whether it’s due to nagging symptoms you want checked out or because of an emergency health crisis, you expect to be accurately diagnosed so that proper treatment can begin. But medicine is often an inexact science, and even the most experienced and well-educated healthcare providers can make mistakes.

For example, a benign condition can look similar to a more serious, potentially fatal condition, and vice versa. Certain symptoms that should be present for a particular disease or illness may not show up, causing doctors to move on to other diagnoses. When doctors make mistakes while diagnosing patients, they waste valuable time towards starting an effective treatment regimen.

What Are the Types of Misdiagnosis?

There are several types of misdiagnosis that can put patients’ health at risk:

  • Wrong diagnosis—This occurs when doctors mistake one condition or illness for another. For example, doctors may diagnose allergies for a persistent cough that turns out to be an early symptom of lung cancer.
  • Missed diagnosis—Doctors may accurately diagnose one condition but miss another. Or they may completely miss serious symptoms or telltale signs of illness while performing routine checkups on patients.
  • Delayed diagnosis—Time is of the essence when treating illnesses. When doctors take too long to make the correct diagnosis, they can put their patients’ health and even their lives at risk.
  • Failure to re-diagnose—Another type of diagnostic error can occur when doctors fail to evaluate patients for new symptoms, illnesses, and complications that are associated with their current health problems or treatment protocols.

Medical Malpractice Is Evaluated on a Case-by-Case Basis

Misdiagnosis by itself isn’t automatically considered medical malpractice. Due to the complexity of the human body and the differences in each person’s physiology, no doctor will ever have a perfect diagnosis history. However, doctors are required to do everything in their power to boost their odds of making the correct diagnosis, both before and during treatment.

What Causes Doctors to Misdiagnosis Patients?

Unfortunately, doctors don’t always go “by the book” when it comes to evaluating patients and diagnosing their conditions. They may rush through check-ups due to needing to see many patients in a single day, or they may simply act carelessly and not give each patient the time and attention they deserve. In other words—misdiagnoses can also be the fault of doctors’ negligence.

That means that misdiagnosis cases that are caused by doctors making major mistakes can be considered malpractice. Some of those mistakes include:

  • Failure to read patients’ charts or medical history—Diagnosis is often an educated guess. And a big portion of that education comes from reviewing patients’ medical histories.
  • Failure to perform adequate testing—Depending on patients’ complaints and symptoms, doctors may need to perform a variety of tests, including X-rays, blood tests, CAT scans, physical palpations, and more. When they fail to do routine tests, they can miss obvious symptoms and signs of disease.
  • Failure to ask necessary questions—Doctors can’t and shouldn’t expect patients to provide all of the information they need to make diagnoses right off the bat, especially as patients often don’t know what information is important for their doctor to know. That’s why they ask questions to find out what’s ailing their patients. When they don’t ask enough questions, they don’t get the answers they need to make the right decisions.

Were You Misdiagnosed? Our Lawyers Want to Help.

For many patients, misdiagnosis can be a life or death situation. Certain illnesses and conditions, such as cancer, organ failure, and even heart attacks and strokes require immediate diagnosis and treatment. Any wasted days or hours can put patients at risk of severe complications.

If you or someone you love was harmed due to misdiagnosis, we want to help you get the compensation you deserve. Call the Ohio medical malpractice lawyers at Nurenberg, Paris, Heller & McCarthy today. We’re ready to put our experience to work for you.