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Medical Malpractice: What Qualifies as Misdiagnosis?

On Behalf of | Jan 12, 2022 | Medical Malpractice

When you go to your doctor with concerns about your health, you trust that they are going to be able to correctly diagnose your injury or condition. However, if your doctor or other medical professional fails to provide a proper diagnosis, you could potentially suffer long-term damage as a result. Here, the Baltimore medical malpractice attorneys at Peter Angelos Law provide further insight into the intricacies surrounding medical misdiagnoses and what to do if you suspect you have been impacted by an inaccurate diagnosis.

What is a Misdiagnosis?

A misdiagnosis occurs when a healthcare provider incorrectly diagnoses a patient’s medical condition. For example, if a doctor diagnosed a patient with the flu, but the patient actually suffered from Lyme disease, this would be considered a misdiagnosis. Because misdiagnoses result in some form of diagnosis, albeit incorrect, patients typically receive treatment based on the incorrect diagnoses. It is important to note that a misdiagnosis is different from a missed diagnosis, where a doctor fails to diagnose any condition, typically leading to insufficient or no treatment.

Unfortunately, misdiagnoses are all too common. In a study conducted by Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, an estimated 40,000 to 80,000 people die from misdiagnoses each year. In addition, the study found that 80,000 to 160,000 individuals suffer additional harm as a result of a misdiagnosis.

Are Certain Conditions More Likely to be Misdiagnosed?

A more recent study found that there are some conditions more likely to be diagnosed than others. Three types of conditions were responsible for nearly three-fourths of all ‘serious harm’ related to misdiagnoses: infections, cancers, and vascular events. Over one-third of the errors leading to death or permanent disabilities were linked to cancers, 22% were related to vascular issues, and 13.5% were infections. Most of these misdiagnosis errors occurred during an emergency situation or in an outpatient setting, with cancer-related errors occurring more often in the latter location and vascular and infection issues occurring more often in emergency departments.

How do I Prove Medical Malpractice Based on Misdiagnosis?

Doctors are not legally responsible for all incorrect diagnoses, as some medical conditions do not have fully accurate ways to be diagnosed. Instead, victims must prove four things in order to prevail in a medical malpractice lawsuit based on a misdiagnosis:

A doctor-patient relationship:

The plaintiff must prove that the doctor they are bringing the claim against was the one giving the treatment in question. This is often proved through medical records. This relationship establishes a “standard of care”, which is the level and type of care that a reasonably competent and skilled health care professional with a similar background and in the same medical community would have provided under the circumstances that led to the alleged malpractice.

Breach of standard duty of care by a negligent act:

In order for a misdiagnosis claim to be classified as medical malpractice, the doctor must have acted negligently, therefore breaching the standard duty of care. Proving this often requires a medical expert to discuss the appropriate medical standard of care for the procedure or illness in question. Proving the element of negligence is important in a misdiagnosis claim, especially because doctors are not liable for all instances of misdiagnoses. It must be proven that the condition or injury was improperly diagnosed as a result of the doctor’s negligent acts.

Injury or harm as a result of the breach:

In addition to proving that the doctor failed to uphold their standard duty of care, it also must be proven that the injuries or harm sustained resulted directly from this negligence.

Resulting damages:

A victim must prove that they suffered as a result of the injury or harm caused by the diagnosis. Examples of damages can include physical pain, mental anguish, additional medical bills, and lost work or earning capacity.

What Should I Do if I Feel I May be a Victim of a Misdiagnosis?

The most important step in a misdiagnosis case is to seek legal counsel. An experienced medical malpractice attorney can help with gathering evidence to support your claim, navigating insurance-related issues, and representing you in court. Due to the overwhelming and important nature of a misdiagnosis claim, it is especially important to find a medical malpractice attorney who has previous success in misdiagnosis claims.

Consult With The Baltimore Medical Malpractice Attorneys at Peter Angelos Law

Suffering from a misdiagnosis by a doctor you trust is something no one should go through. While financial compensation cannot erase all pain caused by a misdiagnosis, it can help with medical bills and added expenses that result from the misdiagnosis. Our team of dedicated medical malpractice attorneys has years of experience representing misdiagnosis cases. Call us today or fill out the form below for a consultation.