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Failure To Treat Or Diagnose

Posted on Wednesday, May 4th, 2011

One of the more common types of malpractice occurs when a doctor or hospital fails to properly treat, or ignores, a medical condition. When a patient presents his symptoms the doctor will typically make a differential diagnoses. This is a systematic method to identify the disease or injury causing a patient’s symptoms.

Before a medical condition can be treated, it must be identified. Sometimes the doctor does not take a complete history or is too quick in reaching a diagnosis, and the true condition is not diagnosed. Therefore, the proper treatment plan is not started. If the error is quickly recognized, then there may be little or no harm. However, in some cases a delay of days or even hours can have significant consequences. Such as failure to quickly treat a stroke, heart attack or recognize the signs of internal bleeding. Failure to diagnose and treat can arise in almost any context and have devastating results, such as those listed below:

  • Failure to diagnose postoperative infection can lead to multiple additional surgeries.
  • Failure to diagnose a fracture (not ordering x-ray or misreading film) could lead to improper healing of the bones.
  • Turning a patient away with severe infection could lead to organ failure.
  • Not treating a circulatory problem or gang green could result in amputation.
  • Untreated Lyme’s disease can lead to neurologic damage.

Failure to diagnose can result in death or can result in permanent injuries with such illnesses as:

  • Kidney failure
  • Breast cancer
  • Intestinal cancer
  • Colon cancer
  • Brain cancer
  • Other serious medical conditions

Medicine is not an exact science and different conditions can present similar symptoms. That is why it is important to for a doctor to consider the more serious condition or disease, before coming to any conclusions. If the treatment prescribed is not working then the diagnosis must be reevaluated.

Typically, the doctor will defend a claim by asserting that the diagnosis was reasonable given symptoms presented and/or that the outcome (prognosis) would be the same even though there was delay in treatment. By a thorough review of the medical records you can sometimes prove malpractice by showing nurses notes, which the doctor did consider, that are inconsistent with the diagnosis; or by a lack of documentation regarding the differential diagnosis.

The failure to diagnose or delay in diagnosing an illness can result in premature death, even though early diagnosis would have provided ample time for treatment. When you discover that you are terminally ill with a disease that could have been diagnosed and treated or you have lost a loved one after a failure to diagnose or delay in diagnosis, you may be entitled to significant compensation for your loss. The failure to diagnose or delay in diagnosis is equivalent to denying treatment of a disease. Whether tests were not properly administered, the results were incorrectly interpreted, you were not given adequate treatment options, or your diagnosis came too late, you still have rights.

Failure to diagnose or a delay in diagnosis is a relatively common error made by doctors and other medical professionals. It is possible that test results were improperly read, that adequate testing was not administered, or that doctor negligence and a hurried treatment prevented an illness or disease from being identified. When you and your family need answers, our attorneys will aggressively take on your case. We will collect all necessary evidence, consult with witnesses, review hospital and medical records, and confer with medical experts who can testify to the potential negligence in your case or claim.

At Coker, Schickel, Sorenson, Posgay & Iracki, we have experience in the investigation of complex medical malpractice claims and maximizing settlements and verdicts for clients.