Medical malpractice lawsuits often arise from the misdiagnosis or late diagnosis of an illness or injury. Either one can lead to no treatment, a delay in treatment or the wrong medical treatment. If that’s the case, you may be able to prove that a doctor’s negligence led to more serious medical problems.
Since the laws governing medical malpractice suits vary by state, it’s important to know what circumstances can give you a case for malpractice. Medical malpractice requires showing that a doctor acted negligently and failed to provide you with proper standard of care.
Missed or Delayed Diagnosis
If your doctor failed to diagnose your medical condition or failed to investigate your symptoms further and your condition worsened as a result, you may have reason to sue.
Cancer is a common example. Although doctors can still treat cancer following a delayed diagnosis, starting treatment later rather than sooner can increase the risk that the cancer will recur or give the cancer time to progress — perhaps to the point that it metastasizes and spreads to other parts of your body.
Even if the initial screening tests a doctor uses reflect negative results, or if you have a complaint that suggests your symptoms are related to a specific medical condition, a proper diagnosis may require follow-up care to see if the condition resolves or becomes worse. If no follow-up takes place, the lack of additional diagnostic testing can make a correct diagnosis more difficult.
Inadequate Diagnostic Testing
Although doctors usually deem additional diagnostic tests necessary to establish a diagnosis when previous tests show abnormal results, that isn’t always the case. If the tests show negative results, your doctor or a referring physician may still order more tests to rule out other health conditions, especially if he or she determines that there is a valid medical reason for performing certain tests.
Each diagnostic test you undergo helps a physician find out the cause of your symptoms. However, failure to run diagnostic tests other than the usual benchmark tests can lead to an undiagnosed or misdiagnosed health problem. Since not all diagnostic tests tell the whole story, it’s not always enough for a doctor to rely on a single diagnostic test to arrive at an accurate diagnosis.
Another problem is that some doctors rely on outdated lab ranges to diagnose individuals with certain medical conditions even if they present with other clinical criteria for a specific condition. When a doctor overlooks or fails to recognize the warning signs and symptoms of a disease, the end result can be highly detrimental to your health.
Part of your doctor’s responsibility is to make certain that you understand how to properly take the medications that he or she prescribes for you.
When prescribing any medication, your doctor should make you aware of any known side effects and possible interactions with other pharmaceutical drugs, foods and beverages, and other current medical conditions you have. Apart from the risk of side effects, drug interactions can worsen the medical condition for which your doctor is treating you.
In some cases, certain drugs taken at the same time can cause serious or potentially life-threatening side effects. For example, taking a pain medication and a sedative at the same time can increase drowsiness, making it unsafe for you to drive.
Some medications also diminish how well another medication works, as in the case of antibiotics reducing the effectiveness of oral contraceptives, which may result in a pregnancy that then leads to complications for you or your baby.
Another example of drug-induced injury is ingesting certain foods and beverages with some medications that can cause blood levels of the drug to rise, causing toxicity. Drug interactions may also occur when one drug interferes with the absorption of another medication you need.
Lack of Medical Consultation
If you continue to experience problems, but your doctor is unable to offer a clear diagnosis after multiple visits, it may be time for him or her to consult with other medical professionals or make referral requests.
Medicine is a complex science; therefore, it’s often necessary for doctors to request patient referrals with other medical specialists to arrive at a proper diagnosis. Seeking opinions from experts in other medical specialties can help a doctor make a correct diagnosis and/or receive recommendations for appropriate treatment.
Many doctors actually find it helpful to get the opinions of doctors in other specialties, especially if your case is a tough one or your doctor wants the diagnosis confirmed. However, if your primary care doctor isn’t qualified by training and experience to correctly diagnose the medical condition you have, yet fails to request a referral with a specialist in that area, he or she may be putting your well-being at risk.
If a doctor failed to properly diagnose or treat your medical symptoms that led to serious injury, contact the law firm of Otorowski Morrow and Golden, PLLC for advice on how to prove your case by establishing what a physician did wrong.