When it comes to medical negligence involving diagnosis, what often makes the news is misdiagnosis or wrong diagnosis where a medical professional fails to correctly diagnose a patient, resulting in serious harm. However, there is another area of medical negligence that doesn't get as much attention, but causes significant harm to patients. And that is delayed diagnosis.
Not diagnosing a disease or condition in a timely manner could result in significant issues for the patient. When it comes to cancer or other potentially terminal diseases, a timely diagnosis could make the difference between life and death. For example, with cancer, if the disease is not diagnosed in a timely fashion, it cold spread to the rest of the body and it might become too advanced to treat. This could prove fatal for the patient, who might have survived if the condition had been diagnosed at the right time.
What Causes Delayed Diagnosis?
When there is a disease or condition that is to be diagnosed, medical professionals utilize a number of methods to determine what is ailing you. They may order lab tests, body scans, ultrasound tests or other types of tests to form the correct diagnosis. There are, however, a number of ways in which this process could go awry as a result of negligence or carelessness. Some of the most common causes of delayed diagnosis include:
- Misreading or misinterpreting test results, x-rays or medical charts
- Charts or paperwork that has been lost or mixed up
- Mistakes made in the medical chart
- Not ordering the appropriate medical tests
- Failure to refer a patient to the right specialist
What Are the Consequences?
Whether a medical condition is life-threatening or not, when a patient does not get timely treatment, there is suffering involved. A chronic medical condition, when not treated, could cause physical and emotional suffering. Of course, when a serious medical condition is involved, even a little delay in diagnosis could have major consequences. For example, when cancer tumors spread to the rest of the body because they were not diagnosed in a timely manner and treated, that could be deadly.
Other conditions when left undiagnosed may later require more extensive, intrusive and costly treatments if they are allowed to progress as a result of delayed diagnosis. For example, when a heart condition is not promptly diagnosed, the patient may need bypass surgery, which requires a lengthy recovery time and could have life-changing effects on the patient. When diabetes is not diagnosed in a timely manner, it could result in permanent injuries such as blindness, nerve damage or limb amputations. Similarly, a delay in diagnosing high blood pressure could lead to stroke, brain damage or even death.
Proving Medical Malpractice
In order to prove medical negligence in these cases, plaintiffs must show evidence that a doctor-patient relationship existed, that there was delayed diagnosis, the delay caused the patient injury and/or harm, and that he or she suffered damages and losses as a result of the delayed diagnosis. Patients can seek compensation for damages including medical expenses incurred such as cost of additional treatment or injury, hospitalization, etc., lost income and pain and suffering. An experienced Orange County medical malpractice lawyer will be able to advise patients and their families who have suffered the consequences of delayed diagnosis about their legal rights and options.