Diagnostic errors are a common cause of medical malpractice claims. A prominent American study indicated that diagnostic errors accounted for 28 percent of successful medical malpractice claims. This success rate was considered the highest of any other medical malpractice claim. (The closest other claims were negligent treatment at 27 percent and negligent surgery at 24 percent).
A diagnostic error commonly leads to a patient receiving no treatment or inappropriate treatment. The patient's underlying condition may further deteriorate and the patient may even be harmed if inappropriate medication is administered or an inappropriate procedure or surgery is conducted. You or a family member may miss the opportunity to recover or even suffer an unnecessary serious health impairment. Your life or the life of a loved one may even be at stake. An experienced lawyer who is familiar with diagnostic error claims can protect your legal rights to obtain just and fair compensation in diagnostic error claims.
Medical Misdiagnosis: Elements of the Claim
A physician determines the potential diagnoses that may explain the patient's symptoms or presentation. The critical differential diagnosis process is well described by physician-attorney Matt Young. As Dr. Young explains, the most serious error is overlooking the most dangerous diagnosis, even if that diagnosis is improbable.
In Newfoundland and Labrador, patients or their surviving family members who have experienced a tragedy or wrongful death due to a diagnostic error can seek damages. For a medical malpractice claim for diagnostic error to succeed, the claimant must prove that:
- The relevant medical professional breached the standard of duty of care the patient was entitled to receive;
- The breach of the duty of care resulted in an erroneous diagnosis; and
- The diagnostic error caused or contributed to delayed recovery, patient harm or death.
An erroneous medical diagnosis claim may arise from a breach of the standard of care by a doctor in conducting or ordering inappropriate tests (acts of omission); failing to perform a proper examination; failing to conduct appropriate tests or misjudging the result of a test; failing to communicate the results of tests to a patient; failure to take such further diagnostic or other measures as may be indicated.
These claims are often challenging. A doctor is not required to exercise perfect judgment. There is a latitude allowed physicians in acting reasonably in dealing with diagnostic challenges. A doctor is not required to take every measure in every case to determine the diagnosis with perfect certainty. A patient sees the doctor with a specific medical complaint that is investigated and treated by the doctor. It can be difficult to prove that an accurate diagnosis and proper treatment would have made a significant difference to the ultimate outcome. This is especially the case with more advanced and complicated conditions.
Medical Misdiagnosis: the Possible Defendants
A diagnostic error may arise from the fault of a number of health professionals even if the diagnostic error is not directly committed by the particular professional. It is sufficient if the diagnostic error or oversight results from an error or omission by health care providers including:
- Family physicians
- Specialists (including radiologists and pathologists)
- X-ray technicians, blood technicians, medical lab technicians
- Manufacturers of defective diagnostic equipment
- Health professional responsible for maintaining equipment
- Health professionals whose responsibility includes the making of a diagnosis for the purpose of determining the appropriate course of treatment or reporting to the appropriate physician.
Medical Misdiagnosis: Common Types of Diagnostic Errors
Misdiagnosis, delayed diagnosis, and failure to diagnose are very general yet very common causes of action in medical malpractice cases. These errors can result in incorrect treatment, incorrect prescription, delayed treatment, or non-treatment. More specific examples of types of diagnostic errors include:
- Failure to take proper family and social history and ensure proper understanding of patient symptoms.
- Failure to conduct proper physical examination.
- Failure to order the blood, X-ray, specific imaging or other tests where indicated.
- Mixing up patient information prior to conducting the test or in reporting the test result.
- Contamination of samples or equipment used to test samples.
- Failure to conduct the tests correctly.
- Failure to properly read and interpret test results including X-ray, MRI, CAT Scan, blood work, urine and fecal samples, sputum.
- Failure to perform regular physicals or screening where indicated.
- Failure to recognize conditions or symptoms of an illness.
- Failure to detect or screen for cancer where indicated.
- Failure to conduct prenatal screening, e.g. genetic, glucose, diabetes.
- Failure to detect gestational diabetes.
- Misdiagnosis of prenatal health conditions.
- Misdiagnosing the baby's condition during labour due to failure to monitor and correctly interpret fetal heart rate.
- Failure to refer a patient to a specialist.
- Failure of hospital laboratory to report accurate results.
- Failure to conduct a differential diagnosis by using an initial diagnosis as a starting point but not ruling out other diagnosis as further evidence becomes available or the patient is non-responsive to initial treatment. Essentially, this means that a doctor should be open-minded towards the possibility of one or more alternate diagnosis that explains the health condition and indicates more appropriate treatment.
Comprehensive, Compassionate Lawyer for Diagnostic Errors in Newfoundland & Labrador
These cases are complex and require resources to investigate the facts. Geoff Aylward will help you navigate the legal system and will counsel you on your options so that you make informed decisions that could affect the rest of your life and your family's life.
Geoff Aylward, Q.C. will provide effective advice and representation in seeking benefit payment or compensation. Contact lawyer Geoff Aylward for diagnostic error claim representation today either online or at 709-726-7260.