Failure to diagnose a patient’s condition can lead to serious health consequences. In certain circumstances it will be considered medical malpractice. The right to recover damages for failure to diagnose will depend upon whether timely diagnosis likely would have prevented harm to the patient.
Diagnosis is a Foundation of Medicine
Medical treatment of a patient must start with an accurate and reliable diagnosis of the patient’s condition. A medical diagnosis is usually arrived at by considering the patient’s signs, symptoms and history. This is commonly referred to as a clinical diagnosis. When a clinical diagnosis cannot be made or needs to be confirmed diagnostic tests are usually ordered. These typically involve laboratory testing, imaging, or other diagnostic investigations. In coming to a diagnosis a physician can use diagnostic criteria, engage in a process of differential diagnosis to arrive at a diagnosis by exclusion or employ a medical algorithm or other clinical decision making process. Sometimes it is simply not possible to make a diagnosis. Once a diagnosis is made medical treatment can be planned and provided.
Errors in Diagnosis
Errors in diagnosis can occur for a number of different reasons. In some cases the underlying cause of the patient’s symptoms is not even considered in making the diagnosis. Sometimes excessive reliance is placed on certain aspects of the patient’s presentation. Sometimes the presenting symptoms mimic or suggest another more common condition. In other cases the condition presents atypically or evokes symptoms not usually associated with the condition.
Failure to Diagnose and Medical Malpractice
The fact that an incorrect medical diagnosis has been made or that a diagnosis has not been made in a timely way does not in and of itself mean that medical malpractice has occurred. Failure to diagnose will only be considered medical malpractice if a specific act of medical negligence can be proven. This can include the following medical errors:
1. Failure to order a diagnostic test or investigation required by the circumstances.
2. Failure to properly read or interpret the results of a diagnostic test or image.
3. Failure to consider a diagnosis or symptom that other doctors in the same circumstances would take into account.
4. Failure to carry out a differential diagnosis properly.
The Consequences of a Failure to Diagnose
The right to recover damages because of a failure to diagnose will depend on whether it is likely that the patient likely would have a better outcome had treatment been initiated at the time that the correct diagnosis should have been made. The answer to this question will often depend on medical evidence. If the condition is not amenable to treatment or if the treatment was not available within a necessary window of opportunity then the failure to diagnose may not have legal consequences. The cases of failure to diagnose that we see and have experience with in our legal practice that can give rise to serious harm to the patient are cases involving a failure to diagnose:
3. Myocardial Infarct
4. Bacterial Meningitis
5. Deep Vein Thrombosis
6. Dissecting Aneurysms
7. Post operative bleeding or other complications
8. Perforated Bowel
9. Genetic Defects
11. Compartment Syndrome
12. Detached Retinas
If you or a loved one has suffered as a result of a physician’s failure to diagnose than contact us for a free consultation with a Toronto medical malpractice lawyer. We will review your case for free and discuss your legal options. We represent clients throughout Ontario. To contact us call 416.862.0997 or if you reside outside Toronto or the GTA call 1.866.966.0997. You may also complete our case evaluation form by clicking on our free case evaluation button to speed up our intake process.