If a misdiagnosis results in harm or injury to a patient, the patient can file a medical malpractice claim with a lawyer to recover compensation for damages. A misdiagnosis of an illness, disease, or injury can lead to serious health complications and even death for some patients. If the patient dies due to a misdiagnosis, family members can file a wrongful death lawsuit on the patient’s behalf.
What Qualifies as Misdiagnosis?
According to statistics, 1 in 20 patients who seek medical attention for an illness, disease, or injury is misdiagnosed. That equates to about 12 million patients every year, but medical experts suspect that the actual numbers may be much higher because many patients don’t know they have been misdiagnosed, so they never report it.
According to the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, medical errors are the third-leading cause of death in the United States. A medical misdiagnosis is commonly linked to medical errors made by hospitals, physicians, nurses, and health aids, but it may also be linked to faulty medical equipment. A misdiagnosis is simply defined as an incorrect diagnosis of a medical condition. The most common causes of patient misdiagnoses include:
- Failure to perform proper testing procedures
- Failure to follow up on test results
- Prescribing the wrong medications
- Anesthesia and surgical errors
- Technical equipment malfunctions
- Errors noted in patient charts
A medical misdiagnosis is sometimes linked to a missed diagnosis, meaning that the medical condition is overlooked by the examining physician. For example, if a patient’s stomach pains are dismissed as gas or food allergies, but the actual problem is stomach ulcers or ovarian cancer, a missed diagnosis or lack of a proper diagnosis could result in serious complications or even death for the patient. A missed diagnosis is often more dangerous because the patient may not seek further treatment.
According to the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, medical errors are the third-leading cause of death in the United States. Each year, misdiagnosis happens annually to millions of Americans. Currently, health conditions caused by medical errors out-rank cases of all illnesses and diseases, including Alzheimer’s and diabetes. The number of patient medical errors is only surpassed by numbers related to heart disease and cancer.
What to Do After a Misdiagnosis
While medical errors account for about 10% of patient deaths, many go undetected and unreported. The majority of patients don’t realize they have been misdiagnosed or know what to do if you have been misdiagnosed. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), medical errors are rarely noted on patient death certificates by hospitals, physicians, medical examiners, coroners, and funeral directors.
The CDC uses the same coding system that’s used by hospitals and medical facilities to record the underlying cause of a patient’s death. The coding system does not track medical errors related to a misdiagnosis or negligent actions of medical facilities or medical professionals. If they were documented, the CDC estimates that deaths from medical errors would exceed deaths from most major health problems like heart attacks, kidney and liver diseases, respiratory diseases, strokes, and traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) combined.
The lack of reporting on medical errors makes it difficult for patients to know what to do if they have been misdiagnosed. The majority of patients trust their doctors to properly diagnose a medical problem and provide the right treatment. An accurate diagnosis usually relies on a physical exam, as well as a variety of testing procedures such as diagnostic tests, screening tests, image tests, and laboratory tests that are commonly used to diagnose patient illnesses and diseases.
- Diagnostic Tests – Diagnostic tests are routinely done to confirm or rule out certain health conditions such as cardiovascular disease, strokes, lung and respiratory problems, strokes, and certain types of cancers.
- Screening Tests – Screening tests are used to look for problems in patients who are considered at high risk for developing certain problems. Common screening tests include mammograms, ultrasounds, and fertility tests for women, and prostate scans for men.
- Image Tests – Image tests produce visual images of body parts and internal organs. They include X-rays, CT scans, MRIs, and ultrasound procedures. They are commonly used to diagnose broken bones and fractures, head trauma, brain injuries, and pregnancy.
- Laboratory Tests – Laboratory tests are usually done in a medical lab or facility. They are commonly used to collect a patient’s blood, urine, or tissue samples and detect problems with blood pressure, cholesterol and insulin levels, the kidneys, liver, pancreas, and thyroid.
When patients undergo these types of tests, they rely on accurate test results and proper follow-up treatment. Patients never expect to experience diagnostic errors and inaccurate test results caused by a poorly trained technician, faulty equipment, misread results, or lack of physician follow-up. However, a medical malpractice lawyer commonly sees these types of negligent medical actions linked to patient injuries and health complications.
If a patient’s illness or condition gets worse after receiving a diagnosis from a medical professional, it’s important to talk to the doctor who gave the diagnosis, seek a second option from a different doctor, and get emergency medical care if needed. If the health condition has been misdiagnosed, and the patient suffers complications, he or she can file a medical malpractice claim with an experienced lawyer who can prove medical negligence.
How to Prove Medical Negligence
When making a medical malpractice claim, medical negligence must be proven in court. Medical malpractice cases can be complicated because they often involve multiple defendants when patients see several doctors or specialists. In certain cases, breach of duty or negligence may be difficult to prove when multiple health providers provided patient care, more than one medical professional treated the patient, and there is more than one cause of injury. A knowledgeable medical malpractice lawyer is essential to address the complicated issues regarding negligence.
Medical malpractice is a specific type of tort law that deals with professional negligence. “Tort” (meaning wrong) and tort laws provide remedies for civil matters. “Negligence”, the most commonly used standard in tort law, is defined as conduct that falls short of a professional standard within certain professions. This standard is based on the reasonable conduct of another person under similar circumstances.
In medical malpractice cases, medical professionals are held to a certain standard of conduct related to their patients. Medical professionals including physicians, nurses, surgeons, specialists, and technicians are required to uphold a professional oath that protects their patients from harm while under their care. If a patient suffers harm or injury due to medical errors or omissions, the patient has the right to file a lawsuit with a medical malpractice lawyer for negligent actions.
In the United States, medical malpractice laws are governed by state laws, so a patient who received care from a hospital or doctor in Illinois should know how to file a medical malpractice claim in Chicago. In busy Illinois hospitals, it’s not uncommon for lawyers to see patient injuries caused by a lack of coordinated patient care between attending physicians, nurses, surgeons, and specialists who are all treating the same patient. In many cases, there’s a lack of communication between doctors, nurses, and specialists that results in delayed treatments, proper follow-up care, and wrong medications. When medical professionals are overworked, sleep-deprived, and handling too many patients, medical errors are much more likely to happen.
In Illinois, identifying and naming defendants in a medical malpractice suit is required to prove negligence. To establish a valid medical malpractice claim, a plaintiff must prove that a medical facility or medical professional failed to meet their standard duty of care to the patient, and that failure was directly responsible for the patient’s injuries. In Illinois, a medical malpractice lawyer can help you prove negligence.
Although a large percentage of patient injury claims and wrongful death lawsuits are caused by a misdiagnosis, a delayed diagnosis, or a missed diagnosis of a patient’s medical condition, this doesn’t always support a medical malpractice claim or ensure a successful outcome in a medical malpractice lawsuit. To have an actionable case, a misdiagnosis, delayed diagnosis, or missed diagnosis must result in improper medical care, delayed treatment, or lack of treatment which leads to worsening of the patient’s medical condition.
The patient (the plaintiff) and the plaintiff’s lawyer must know what to do if a misdiagnosis occurs. They must prove negligence on the part of the hospital or medical professional. An experienced lawyer can ensure that proper evidence to support negligence is collected and presented in court within the allowed statute of limitations, which is two years.
If the patient dies as a result of his or her injuries, family members are entitled to file a wrongful death lawsuit with a medical malpractice lawyer on behalf of the deceased victim.