What to Know About a Delayed or Missed Diagnosis

There are health and legal ramifications of a missed or delayed diagnosis. In terms of health, a missed diagnosis can mean that it takes longer to get treatment. The condition can worsen, or in some cases, the wrong treatment may be given altogether.

Legally, delayed or missed diagnoses are among the most common personal injury claims filed. If the condition was aggravated by a delayed or missed diagnosis, it could lead to suffering. In those instances, you should be compensated for your losses.

The following are some of the general things to know about a delayed or missed medical diagnosis.

What is a Delayed Diagnosis?

A delayed diagnosis isn’t the same as a misdiagnosis. Misdiagnosis is an incorrect diagnosis. A delayed or missed diagnosis occurs when someone’s health condition isn’t diagnosed in a reasonable amount of time.

That delay can lead to worsening of the condition.

Some of the situations where a delayed diagnosis can occur include:

  • You, as a patient, reported symptoms to your doctor but they were dismissed
  • Your test results were incorrectly collected or were lost
  • A doctor saw something was wrong but didn’t order further tests
  • A doctor doesn’t refer a patient to a specialist, even when they should

For some, a delayed diagnosis doesn’t have much of an impact. For other people, it can lead to lifelong complications.

Sometimes a delayed diagnosis can also occur because a doctor diagnosed you with the wrong thing, and then you’re re-diagnosed with the right condition. This is both misdiagnosis and a delayed diagnosis.

In general, the earlier an illness is correctly diagnosed and subsequently treated, the better the chances of recovery and survival.

How is a Diagnosis Made?

When a doctor makes a diagnosis, they gather the data and facts including the patient’s medical history. They then take that information and apply it to what they know in terms of medical knowledge.

At that point, they can make a diagnosis based on the symptoms in relation to their medical knowledge.

To avoid a delayed diagnosis, doctors need to have a grasp of the most relevant facts to the patient’s case.

This can then lead them to the other steps they might need to take to get the correct diagnosis, such as the appropriate tests.

If a mistake is made anywhere in this process, the result can be a delayed diagnosis.

Some of the medical conditions most commonly associated with delayed diagnosis include:

  • Breast cancer
  • Lung cancer
  • Melanoma
  • Thyroid cancer

Not all delayed diagnosis cases are related to cancer, but cancer can, in some cases, be trickier to diagnose because it requires many tests, and the symptoms can be similar to so many other conditions.

How Do You Prove a Delayed Diagnosis?

If you were the victim of a delayed diagnosis and you’re considering a personal injury lawsuit, the following are some of the factors that go into proving the delay and things you’ll have to demonstrate to be true:

  • Doctor patient-relationship: This is the easiest thing to prove, and it’s necessary for a delayed diagnosis claim. You have to show that you agreed to be seen by a doctor and they provided you with medical care. Your medical records can serve as evidence of this.
  • One of the biggest things relevant to a delayed diagnosis claim is what’s called a standard of care. You will have to show your doctor didn’t abide by the standard of care. The standard of care refers to how a doctor cares for their patient. If most other doctors in similar situations would have done something different than your doctor, then it may show they didn’t abide by the standard of care.
  • The next element of a delayed diagnosis claim is to show that the doctor’s negligence caused your injuries. One example would be if your cancer wasn’t diagnosed and then it spread, meaning treatment might be less effective.
  • You’ll also have to show them a connection between the injuries and the damages you incurred. Damages can be both financial and emotional.

If you believe that a delayed diagnosis caused you harm, you should speak to a lawyer. Sometimes we don’t think of delayed diagnosis as being a medical malpractice situation, but it is.

A lawyer can help you determine what the next steps you should be and if you have a claim for damages.

A delayed diagnosis can be life-altering and should be handled as such.

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