Not every failure to diagnose is considered medical malpractice. There are many good reasons why a physician may have hesitated or avoided diagnosing a condition. Sometimes patient-doctor communication may be to blame. In other cases, symptom profiles may closely mimic other conditions that are more common in society. Since the right answer is often the simplest one, many physicians will gravitate towards those diagnoses. A failure to diagnose may be an act of negligence and warrant legal action if:
1. You Have an Established Doctor-Patient Relationship
When you have seen a doctor in a medical setting (not asked a friend’s doctor a question at a ballgame), you have an established doctor-patient relationship. At that point, your doctor owes you a medical duty of care for as long as you are his or her patient.
2. Your Doctor Violated His or Her Duty of Care
If your doctor fails to act in a professional manner while caring for you, he or she may be violating the standard of care you are owed. If you are wondering what a standard duty of care looks like, you might want to consider getting a second opinion from another doctor or asking yourself if another doctor would have reasonably done something differently. A failure to diagnose may be a violation of duty if:
- Your doctor failed to ask reasonable questions regarding your lifestyle, habits, symptoms, and medical history. Open communication may be one of the most important ways your doctor can pinpoint a diagnosis. If a doctor does not ask you questions or seem to care about what you are saying, he or she may be missing out on important facts, and that could be considered malpractice.
- Your doctor failed to recommend testing and screening to diagnose your symptoms. If another doctor would have easily recommended testing to confirm a diagnosis and yours does not, it may lead to a failure to diagnose, which could be an act of malpractice.
- Your doctor misinterprets the results. We all put our trust in physicians to make knowledgeable and accurate decisions regarding testing. If a doctor tells you everything is fine, when another professional would have clearly seen a problem, it could be malpractice.
These are only a few of the ways a doctor could fail to diagnose as an act of malpractice. Anything your doctor does that would not have been done by another professional with the same skill set could be considered an act of malpractice.
3. The Doctor’s Failure to Diagnose Caused You Harm
The final key to determining whether a failure to diagnose will be considered malpractice is the effect that the failure had on you as a patient. If your health has worsened or you have developed a serious complication because your doctor failed to diagnose your condition in a reasonable amount of time, the failure to diagnose will most likely be considered an act of malpractice.
Speaking out About Malpractice
Many people never think about a failure to diagnose as malpractice. They may try to explain away a doctor’s excuse. For small matters, a failure to diagnose may not make that much of a difference, but for serious illnesses, it can put your health and life at serious risk. There is often a fine line between what is considered malpractice and a reasonable mistake. Correlation is not necessarily causation, but it is always a good idea to get a second opinion or ask a lawyer who specializes in malpractice about your situation if you have any concerns. To learn more about whether your delayed diagnosis is considered malpractice, contact a medical malpractice lawyer in West Virginia for a free case evaluation.