Can a Doctor Be Sued for Failure to Diagnose?
Statistics say that almost half of medical malpractice lawsuits stem from one doctor or another failing to properly diagnose a patient. Some of these cases are less severe and range from minor to completely frivolous, but some of them are much more serious. Some of the more severe cases include doctors who have failed to perform proper tests – either due to stubbornness or arbitrary unwillingness – and the patient becomes critically ill or dies, which could be grounds for civil action. However, not always does the plaintiff have a chance of winning the case, because failing to diagnose is not an outright medical mistake – doctors misdiagnose patients all the time.
When you visit the doctor with complaints of illness, a doctor will usually be able to treat you and then send you home with some medication. In some instances you might be complaining of more severe pain and the doctor will usually be able to perform tests and x-rays in order to diagnose your condition. In some cases the doctors won’t find anything and you’ll just get better on your own – it was probably just a bug passing through. However, what if you don’t get better? It could be that the doctor missed something he should have noticed – considering the doctor’s expertise.
There is ground to sue for misdiagnosis is if the diagnosis is plainly obvious. Malpractice, in its definition, clearly states that a doctor is at fault if they were acting negligently or were incompetent in their practice as a medical professional. What if on an x-ray there is a tumor in a vital organ and as a result of the doctor not catching it, when he or she took the x-ray, resulted in the cancer spreading to the rest of the body? Yet, while you can file a suit against the doctor or the hospital in this instance, there is no guarantee you will win.
There is a definite chance that the doctor didn’t catch something – like a tumor in an x-ray – because it was undetectable, even to his or her trained eye. There have been cases where patients went to a doctor to have tests after complaining about pain and discomfort and the doctor’s find nothing, and then the patient goes to another doctor a few months down the line after the pain doesn’t subside and that doctor actually does find something. It could be that the problem got worse and became more noticeable – and not that the first doctor that gave the initial diagnosis acted incompetently.
Lastly, there is also the instance where it is not the doctor that you should be suing, but the medical technology industry. There have many cases where patients file a suit against the doctor, but it is really a faulty pacemaker, a hearing aid causing infection or even transvaginal mesh resulting in discomfort that is to blame. Vaginal mesh was used to treat incontinence in older women, but overtime it started showing signs of wear, which resulted in severe pain and infection in multiple women. In that case, you shouldn’t be suing the doctor or the hospital – you should be looking for a mesh complications lawyer to sue the manufacturer. At the end of the day, you should always get a second opinion – you never know if a doctor truly is acting negligently.