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Why diagnostic failures can cause harm to patients

On Behalf of | May 24, 2024 | Misdiagnosis And Delayed Diagnosis

There is a lot of trust inherent in a patient-physician relationship. Patients have to provide very private, even embarrassing details about their health and personal lives. They trust that a doctor has the knowledge necessary to properly diagnose them and to oversee the treatment that they require.

Unfortunately, millions of patients every year in the United States do not receive the diagnosis they need to access appropriate treatment. A failure to diagnose may initially seem less serious than a misdiagnosis, which occurs when a physician reaches the wrong diagnostic conclusion. Misdiagnosis often results in people undergoing the wrong kind of treatment. Compared with that, a delay in diagnosis may not seem like such a serious concern. However, diagnostic delays can have a major impact on someone’s chances of survival or their quality of life.

Medical conditions often progress

Many of the most concerning health issues get worse unless someone receives appropriate treatment. An infection that starts in the urinary tract could move into the kidneys and bladder. A stroke that goes untreated could result in far more brain damage and long-term symptoms for a patient. A delayed cancer diagnosis could mean that the cancer metastasizes or spreads to other parts of the body. A delay in diagnosis can be the difference between a patient being eligible for relatively simple surgical treatments and needing to undergo debilitating chemotherapy and radiation. Delays in diagnosis can significantly alter someone’s treatment options and their chances of making a full recovery.

When is delayed diagnosis malpractice?

Physicians may fail to diagnose a patient because they rush through an appointment, overlook details in their medical records or ignore the symptoms that a patient reports. Provided that other licensed medical professionals agree that the physician failed to order appropriate testing or overlooked important details, the failure to diagnose someone in a timely fashion could constitute medical malpractice.

Filing a medical malpractice lawsuit could lead to compensation for someone’s medical expenses and lost wages after they have experienced a significant but preventable delay in diagnosis. Realizing that a diagnostic failure is more than just an oversight and might potentially be medical negligence could benefit those affected by a physician’s professional failings.