Most patients trust a medical professional’s diagnosis or his or her judgment that a patient is healthy and doesn’t require treatment. However, medical professionals can and do make mistakes. Doctors can fail to diagnose a condition, for example, costing the patient precious weeks or months of treatment. In other instances, doctors fail to treat a disease appropriately, which can result in the exacerbation of symptoms, worsening conditions and the development of a new injury or illness.
What is “Failure to Diagnose?”
The legal and medical term “failure to diagnose” is a specific kind of misdiagnosis that occurs when a medical professional does not correctly recognize the symptoms of a disease or condition and, accordingly, either fails to prescribe appropriate medical treatment or prescribes the wrong medical treatment.
For instance, consider a scenario where a patient sees a doctor to be screened for cancer. The doctor performs the necessary tests properly. But upon receiving the results, the same doctor fails to recognize the signs of cancer and gives the patient a clean bill of health. Months later, that patient comes down with more severe cancerous symptoms since the condition has spread throughout the body without treatment.
In this case, the doctor should be held liable for damages if the patient files a medical malpractice lawsuit, since the spreading of the cancer was directly due to their failure to diagnose a condition.
What Are Commonly Undiagnosed Diseases?
Unfortunately, many particularly terrible diseases and conditions are frequently undiagnosed due to improper screening procedures or tests that are misread. Examples of common undiagnosed diseases include:
- Lupus, a chronic inflammatory disease characterized by lung damage, joint pain, fatigue, and damage to the kidneys and heart
- Parkinson’s disease, which is a degenerative disorder of the central nervous system and that results in tremors throughout the body
- Lyme disease, which can cause shortness of breath, cramping, nausea, and soreness throughout the body
- Multiple sclerosis, which can cause muscle spasms, balance issues, blurred vision, and even cognitive impairment
- Celiac disease, which is an autoimmune disorder that means the patient cannot digest gluten: a protein commonly found in wheat and wheat products
- Cancers of many kinds
In many instances, these common diseases are not diagnosed properly because their symptoms mimic those of other conditions.
For example, Parkinson’s disease’s symptoms sometimes resemble the symptoms of strokes or Alzheimer’s. So, doctors sometimes improperly diagnose Parkinson’s disease and prescribe a treatment for Alzheimer’s. This may count as a failure to diagnose in a medical malpractice lawsuit depending on the specifics of the case, including the severity of any resulting damages.
Does Failure to Diagnose Count as Medical Malpractice?
Failure to diagnose may qualify as medical malpractice if the mistake occurred as a result of provable negligence. Most medical malpractice cases have four requirements that must be proven, which is why experienced medical malpractice attorneys are important advisors for victims of an undiagnosed disease, helping them to determine the likelihood of a successful lawsuit.
These four medical malpractice requirements are:
- Proving that there was a relationship between the doctor and the patient
- Proving that a required standard of care was not provided – this is usually defined as a level of care commonly accepted as standard by other professionals in the industry
- Proving that damages were suffered by the patient
- Proving that those damages were directly caused by negligence on the part of the doctor
Another example: a patient visits the doctor for a yearly checkup and complains of chest pain. The doctor prescribes some mild soreness medication and assumes that it’s just a symptom of stress, without performing standard tests. Later, the patient discovers that they have Lyme disease and it was undiagnosed because the doctor didn’t perform appropriate tests when he or she should have.
Is Disease Misdiagnosis Common in the US?
Yes. Unfortunately, certain types of diseases are misdiagnosed or left undiagnosed more often than others. Diagnostic error, according to a 2019 study:
- Causes upwards of 80,000 deaths in US hospitals each year
- Vascular events, infection, and cancer rank as some of the highest misdiagnosed or undiagnosed conditions in the world
What If a Disease is Unknown?
Sometimes, a patient may have a disease that, up until that point, was not understood or detected by medical professionals. According to UW Medicine, many undiagnosed diseases may mask themselves as rare conditions, and many rare diseases are genetic, making proper diagnosis an issue.
Even with this caveat, a medical professional may still be responsible for neglect and medical malpractice if they fail to diagnose certain conditions or not provide an acceptable standard of care for patients whose conditions they don’t fully understand.
Failure to Treat a Disease
Failure to treat a disease is a separate type of medical malpractice that occurs when a medical professional does not treat a patient’s disease, whether or not they diagnosed the disease correctly. Either way, incorrect prescription is issued or improper surgical procedures may be recommended and carried out, which can result in further injury or illness.
In other cases, failure to treat disease occurs when a physician notices a disease or condition and does not carry out the proper procedures to treat the condition. Failure to treat disease can also occur if one medical professional correctly diagnoses a disease, but another doctor does not treat it because of a diagnosis disagreement.
Does Failing to Treat a Disease Count as Medical Malpractice?
Failing to treat a disease typically qualifies as medical malpractice. In the event that a patient’s disease is not treated, skilled New York medical malpractice attorneys can help by working to prove that the plaintiff’s damages were directly caused due to intentional negligence on the part of the medical professional.
Compensation for Failure to Diagnose or Treat Diseases
Victims whose doctors failed to diagnose or treat their conditions can expect significant compensation by filing a medical malpractice lawsuit. Compensation can be awarded to cover damages including:
- Costs for all past, present and future medical treatments
- Damages for any pain and suffering endured by the victim
- Compensation for loss of bodily functions or quality of life if the disease’s progression led to such outcomes
Contact New York Medical Malpractice Attorneys Today
Medical malpractice attorneys are critical for New York victims who are seeking the maximum compensation they are owed by law. For over 50 years, the attorneys at Sobo & Sobo have won such cases for patients across the Hudson Valley and New York City. Contact them today by calling 855-468-7626 for a free consultation and see what they can do to help you get the settlement and justice you deserve.