Shocking recent studies in the United States show that as many as 251,000 annual deaths occur due to medical malpractice. Medical mistakes cause grave injuries to thousands of individuals who falsely felt like they were in good hands at hospitals, emergency rooms, and clinics staffed with qualified medical providers. Doctors and other providers are held to a high standard in which they have the duty to treat patients within the industry-accepted standard of care. When a doctor makes an error, the results may be dire.
One of the most common causes of medical malpractice is delayed diagnosis. Unlike a missed diagnosis when the provider fails to correctly diagnose a patient completely or a misdiagnosis when a doctor makes an incorrect diagnosis, a delayed diagnosis occurs when a doctor correctly diagnoses a patient, but only after a significant delay. Delayed diagnosis is particularly deadly. Sick or injured people require prompt accurate diagnoses to ensure they begin the correct medical intervention while the treatment remains an effective option for their condition.
Because delayed diagnoses impact thousands of Americans each year, our team of Louisville medical malpractice attorneys share that it is critical to understand the dangers.
How Do Delayed Diagnoses Occur?
A delayed diagnosis usually results in a worsening of the patient’s condition and can occur in several ways:
- A doctor overlooks a patient’s symptoms
- A doctor dismisses a key symptom as irrelevant and focuses instead on secondary symptoms
- A doctor fails to fully evaluate a patient by not ordering the correct diagnostic tests or not taking a full patient history and family history
- A doctor fails to refer the patient to a specialist
- A doctor misreads or inaccurately interprets diagnostic test results
- Inadequate staffing causes a delay in test processing or in communicating the results of diagnostic tests
Getting the right diagnosis in a timely manner is essential for patients because it’s the basis for every other medical decision and intervention for that patient. When there is a significant delay in correctly diagnosing a patient, their condition advances, worsens, or develops complications.
A diagnosis requires accuracy, timeliness, and a doctor’s ability to effectively communicate the diagnosis with the patient. When these don’t occur and it results in injury to the patient, it’s medical malpractice.
The Dangerous Effects of Delayed Diagnoses
There are countless examples of the dangers of delayed diagnoses, but some of the most damaging and easily understood examples include:
- Delayed cancer diagnosis: different types of cancer spread or metastasize at different rates. Some may be quite aggressive. When a doctor properly diagnoses cancer at an early stage it’s possible to use surgical intervention, radiation, and chemotherapy to effectively remove the cancer from the body before it can spread to the local lymph nodes and then beyond. If a doctor fails to promptly diagnose cancer and begin the appropriate treatment in a timely manner, the impact on the patient may be more aggressive and invasive treatment requirements, and/or the disease could progress beyond the medical profession’s ability to provide curative treatment.
- Delayed diagnosis of infection: When a medical provider fails to promptly diagnose an infection, the infection could worsen or spread, eventually causing sepsis. Sepsis occurs when an infection spreads through the bloodstream and the body triggers a reaction to combat the infection which includes natural chemicals that cause extensive inflammation and ultimately result in organ failure.
- Delayed stroke diagnosis or delayed heart attack diagnosis: both of these medical treatments require swift, life-saving medical interventions. A delayed diagnosis can cause impairment or death.
What Can I Do After a Delayed Diagnosis?
Whether you or a loved one suffered a worsened or advanced medical condition due to a delayed diagnosis, you can file a medical malpractice lawsuit to regain damages including medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and wrongful death benefits.
You should never be left holding the bag after a doctor’s mistake causes you great harm. Seeking legal support from a specialized medical misdiagnosis lawyer in Louisville can help you recover compensation from the liable parties.