Unless you have an advanced medical degree, you’re at the mercy of your doctor to accurately assess your symptoms and recommend a course of action. However, sometimes doctors fail to competently perform this task. Late or missed diagnosis can permanently affect your health, or even prevent you from treating what could have been a survivable condition. Failure to diagnose a stroke can result in additional brain damage or further strokes, and a failure to diagnose cancer can have utterly tragic and fatal results. We trust our doctors to carefully observe our symptoms, and we don’t normally obtain additional medical opinions after each visit to the doctor’s office. Read on to learn what constitutes a medical malpractice claim for failure to diagnose an illness or condition.
In order to successfully sue a medical professional for malpractice for failure to diagnose, you must prove:
- You had a doctor/patient relationship with the professional in question;
- The doctor was negligent in diagnosing your condition or illness; and
- The delay you experienced in receiving a diagnosis caused you harm.
A doctor/patient relationship is typically considered to be formed whenever you obtain care from a doctor. Proving that your doctor was negligent, and that the negligence caused you harm, can be more of a challenge. Courts will find that a doctor was negligent in failing to diagnose a condition or illness where a reasonably competent doctor would have been able to diagnose your condition under similar circumstances. In other words, if a responsible and attentive doctor would have seen your symptoms and test results and been able to diagnose your condition accurately, then a doctor who did not do so was negligent.
Additionally, the failure to diagnose must have been the cause of additional injury to the patient. It may be impossible to show this harm where either the patient did not consult the doctor until it was too late to prevent the disease from advancing, or the delay in eventual diagnosis didn’t cause additional harm. For example, if a doctor negligently failed to identify a cancerous legion on a patient’s lung, but a month later, a doctor who reviewed the patient’s x-rays pursuant to a second opinion did identify the lesions before they spread, then the negligent doctor did not cause any harm. However, if the patient had not obtained a second opinion, and the cancer wasn’t identified until many months later after it had spread throughout the patient’s body, then the negligent doctor could be liable for the harm caused by the delay in beginning treatment.
Late or missed diagnosis claims can be highly complex, requiring a great deal of technical proof of a competent doctor’s ability to identify diseases based on the symptoms presented, as well as the likely prognosis had the disease been identified and treated earlier, and any shortened lifespan or additional complications that developed by reason of the delay. Seek out an experienced medical malpractice attorney who will competently represent your interests through this process.
For assistance with late or missed diagnosis claims, or other injuries caused by negligent medical professionals in Kentucky, contact the seasoned medical malpractice lawyer Stephen M. O’Brien for a consultation at 859-317-2056.