Medical misdiagnosis happens more frequently than many expect. It can have lasting impact on a person’s quality of life and life expectancy and a devastating effect on the levels of trust between medical personnel and patients.
Misdiagnosis is not always a result of negligence on the part of the medical professional but when it does occur it is important to investigate whether the impact of the misdiagnosis could have been avoided with more stringent care. Medical staff are expected to take a full case history with every patient and make detailed analysis of overall health before recommending a course of action. This helps them identify symptoms, causes and predict outcomes based on overall health. If a part of a patient’s history is missed due to a lack of attention to detail or a slip in procedure, among many other things, then this can lead to a ruling of negligent misdiagnosis.
Negligence may also be established when there has been an inappropriate length of time between investigation and diagnosis, possibly allowing symptoms to worsen and the impact on the individual’s health to grow.
If the correct follow-up and management of consultant or other expert investigation or examination is not sought by the medical practitioner this can also be examined as negligence in duty of care.
It is a very complex and important area of law and if you feel that your health has been compromised by medical negligence then it’s vital that you seek expert legal advice on a confidential basis.
There are generally three main types of misdiagnosis:
This is simply when the medical practitioner has got it wrong. They have followed an examination and its outcome and delivered a prognosis which ultimately turns out to be incorrect. The outcome of this can result in inappropriate medication being prescribed, crucial time lost in the management of the correct prognosis and delay in the effective treatment of the underlying condition.
Pressure of workload, ineffectual management of patient cases and poor procedural management in a GP’s practice, for example, can all result in a delay in diagnosis. However, none of these factors are the fault of the patient. If a significant delay occurs between examination and diagnosis because of the work procedures of the medical practitioner, the outcome for a patient can be very serious.
In many cases a medical staff member may fail to recognise symptoms which can be considered to be with the range of normally identified symptoms. If these are missed this can be ruled as being due to negligence.
Is Misdiagnosis always Medical Negligence?
Not all misdiagnosis is automatically considered medical negligence. There are many areas of healthcare which present overlapping symptoms and conflicting results that blur the area between two separate prognoses. It is the role of the medical practitioner, such as your GP, to identify the conflict in symptoms and make decisions around diagnosis which are responsible and reflect the possible outcomes of diagnosis. Even if the diagnosis eventually proves to be wrong, it can be argued that the prognosis was a typical one for the symptoms that were presented. Seek expert legal advice if you are unsure whether your diagnosis falls into the realm of misdiagnosis or an unfortunate but unavoidable and fair prognosis, given all the information.
There are many areas of human health that are prone to misdiagnosis, including symptoms around meningitis, strokes, diabetes, IBS, epilepsy and cancer. The three largest groupings of illness are generally considered to be vascular events, infections and cancers.
Diseases in this category affect the circulatory system and include hypertension, stroke, cardiovascular and peripheral artery disease. As the age people are living to increases due to overall advances in healthcare, so there is a subsequent rise in these types of illnesses. They are progressive diseases and when they are not diagnosed in time or correctly there is serious impact on the lifespan and health outcomes of the patient.
Infections such as meningitis, spinal infection, pneumonia and endocarditis are all linked to infections that are notoriously difficult to identify quickly. However, they all pose major issues as they can progress in severity rapidly so if there is a delay or misdiagnosis the impact can be devastating for patients. Sepsis, which is the body’s extreme reaction to infection, can also be missed and can have devastating consequences if not identified promptly.
Breast cancer, colorectal, prostate and skin cancers are conditions which some researchers consider to be increasingly prone to misdiagnosis or delayed or incorrect diagnosis.
If you have concerns around the timing and/or the effectiveness of a diagnosis in any of these or related areas seek expert legal advice on how to investigate this further. This is not an extensive list – there are many other areas of diagnosis that apply also, including diagnosis of ectopic pregnancy and irritable bowel syndrome.
Who can be responsible for a misdiagnosis
There are a great many roles within healthcare that can impact a diagnosis. Consequently, each of them can be included in an investigation of a misdiagnosis. The following is not an extensive list but it can give you a very clear sense of the complexity of medical diagnosis and reinforces the need for expert help with your case.
The kinds of healthcare roles that can be responsible include:
When helping a person to investigate misdiagnosis, a legal representative will consider many factors, but the most important one is that each case is unique. Your health and lifestyle is particular to you and while it may seem on first discussion that your case and another are very similar, the personal background to each diagnosis needs to be examined in full.
Your legal advisor will need to look at your age and stage of life, your diagnosis and the impact it had on your lifestyle as well as try to estimate if you should be seeking general or specific damages