Types Of Medical Diagnostic Errors

February 25, 2019
delayed diagnosis lawyer pittsburgh pa

Medical diagnostics errors occur more frequently than one would think. In a 2015 study published by the National Academy of Medicine, it was reported that most people will receive an incorrect or delayed diagnosis in their lifetimes, which can sometimes have serious consequences. Moreover, the National Academy of Medicine reported that approximately 12 million people, or stated differently, approximately 5% of adults who seek outpatient care are misdiagnosed on an annual basis. Why is this the case? Some medical professionals and experts believe that misdiagnosis is rather commonplace because there are approximately 10,000 diseases and only 200 to 300 symptoms. Consequently, the disparity between the amount of diseases and the amount of symptoms that can manifest creates difficulty for doctors in diagnosing a patient as many diseases exhibit the same symptoms. Below, we discuss the types of medical diagnostic errors doctors can make when examining patients and how such a misdiagnosis can turn into a medical malpractice claim against the diagnosing doctor.

Misdiagnosis and Delayed Diagnosis

The two most common types of medical diagnostic errors are misdiagnosis and delayed diagnosis of a patient. Misdiagnosis occurs when a doctor or other medical professional simply fails to diagnose a patient with the correct disease. In failing to diagnose a patient with the correct disease, the misdiagnosing doctor or other medical professional may erroneously diagnose the patient with another disease or may simply fail to produce any diagnosis at all. Delayed diagnosis, however, occurs when a doctor or other medical professional fails to correctly diagnose a patient’s illness in a timely fashion. This means that the doctor or medical professional has eventually come to a correct diagnosis, but often at a later date and after the patient’s health has significantly deteriorated.

Other Common Diagnostic Errors

In addition to misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis, there are other common diagnostic errors that can occur. For example, a doctor may perform tests on patients. Although the tests may yield abnormal results indicating that the patient is suffering from a disease, the doctor may misinterpret the results as normal and fail to diagnose the patient with the disease. Alternatively, if the doctor does interpret the abnormal test results correctly, diagnostic error can still result if the doctor fails to tell the patient of the abnormal test results. Moreover, while a doctor or other medical professional could properly diagnose one disease that the patient has, he or she could commit a diagnostic error by failing to diagnose another disease that the patient has simultaneously contracted or by failing to recognize a complication as a result of a correct diagnosis.

Proving A Medical Malpractice Case Premised on Medical Diagnostic Error

If a doctor or other medical professional does commit one of the above diagnostic errors, the patient can bring a medical malpractice claim against the diagnosing medical professional under certain circumstances. For instance, if a diagnosing doctor fails to properly diagnose a patient after misinterpreting or failing to notify patients about lab results, the doctor may be held liable for medical malpractice. In order to succeed on a medical malpractice claim premised on diagnostic error, the patient must prove that three things occurred: (1) that a physician-patient relationship existed between the parties; (2) the physician was negligent in that he or she did not exercise reasonable care as would a similarly situated doctor under similar circumstances would in diagnosing or failing to diagnose the patient; and (3) the physician’s negligence caused actual injury to the patient. Most medical malpractice cases for failure to diagnose turn on the second and third elements. This is because it is generally understood that even reasonably prudent doctors may make diagnostic errors and that some diagnostic errors do not result in the patient’s health deteriorating significantly.

Contact a Philadelphia Medical Malpractice Attorney for a Consultation About Your Diagnostic Error Case in Pennsylvania

Were you or a loved one injured due to medical malpractice in Pennsylvania? Then you need to talk to an experienced medical malpractice lawyer as soon as possible for guidance on how to proceed. The Philadelphia medical malpractice attorneys at Baldwin Matzus, LLC are prepared to assist you with your legal claim. We represent victims of negligent surgeons, doctors, nurses, and pharmacists throughout Pennsylvania, including Philadelphia, Butler, Greensburg, and Washington. Call us today at (866) 858-2276 or email us to schedule a consultation. Our office is located at 310 Grant Street, Suite 3210, Philadelphia, PA 15219.

The articles on this blog are for informative purposes only and are no substitute for legal advice or an attorney-client relationship. If you are seeking legal advice, please contact our law firm directly.


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