Failure to diagnose is a form of medical malpractice in which a doctor fails to take the proper steps to determine the nature of the patient's medical problem.
What Do I Need to Show in Order to Prove My Doctor's Failure to Diagnose?
In order to sue your doctor for failure to diagnose, you must be able to show that he was negligent in failing to diagnose your problem and that his negligence caused you harm. To do this, you will have to prove both of the following:
- Had the doctor diagnosed you properly, you would not have suffered your current harm or would not have suffered as serious a harm. For example, if you came in with appendicitis and your doctor failed to diagnose it and your appendix later burst, you could probably show that your harm was caused by the doctor's failure to diagnose.
- The doctor acted negligently. The doctor acted negligently if the doctor failed to ask you certain questions, forgot to send the blood test to the proper lab, gave a fake name for your illness and other practices which a similar doctor with the same experience would never have done. To prove this, you will have to show that a reasonable doctor would have recognized your medical problem from your symptoms and diagnosed you appropriately.
What Are Some of the Difficulties with Failure to Diagnose Cases?
Proving failure to diagnose can be very difficult for many reasons including:
- Any medical problem you had when you first went to the doctor was likely to cause you some harm even if promptly diagnosed and treated. If the harm you suffered would have occurred even if the doctor had not failed to diagnose your medical problem, you cannot claim that his negligence caused your harm.
- You may not have seen the right specialist. More than one body system can give the same symptom, making it difficult to correctly diagnose a condition. A dermatologist, for example, cannot be expected to find and treat an illness originating from the digestive system.
- You withheld information from the doctor or gave misleading information to the doctor which might have aided or hindered the doctor’s ability to diagnose the problem. For example, if you tell the doctor that you don’t smoke even though you do, than the doctor may not be able to properly diagnose that you have developed lung cancer or other respiratory illnesses.
- If the doctor's mistake was one that a reasonable doctor would make, he has not acted negligently and has not committed medical malpractice. Often when a doctor fails to diagnose a medical problem, he may mistake the problem for something else and attempt to treat that. Likewise, if the medical problem is extremely rare, unknown, or difficult to identify, than a proper diagnose may not be possible.
Do I Need a Lawyer for my Failure to Diagnose Case?
Showing that a doctor negligently failed to diagnose your condition is difficult to prove. An experienced medical malpractice attorney can help you develop your case. A medical malpractice lawyer can also represent you in court.