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What’s the difference between misdiagnosis and a delayed diagnosis case?

The majority of medical staff diagnose illnesses and prescribe treatment correctly in accordance with set professional standards, however there are instances when unfortunately mistakes can and do occur, sadly in some cases with serious consequences.

Numerous medical negligence claims are a result of diagnostic errors. When a medical professional fails to identify or diagnose symptoms of an illness or health condition this can lead to incorrect treatment, delayed treatment, or death, it can also have a devastating impact on the patient and their families. However, diagnostic errors do not automatically qualify as medical negligence. Instead, a misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis must be avoidable before it becomes negligent treatment.

When misdiagnosis occurs, a patient receives medical care for an injury or illness they do not have. In this case, the patient can undergo unnecessary medical procedures, causing ongoing pain and suffering, and possibly leading to a decrease in overall health. Misdiagnosis can in worst case scenarios lead to death, especially if the patient never received proper treatment for the illness or injury they suffered.

What is Delayed Diagnosis?

Delayed diagnosis, also known as late diagnosis, occurs when a patient’s condition is missed by a medical professional, only diagnosing the condition or illness at a more advanced stage. The healthcare professional gives the right diagnosis, but only after significant delay. In the interim, however, the patient will likely have received unnecessary treatment, suffered pain, suffering and incurred large unnecessary medical costs. Most victims of delayed diagnosis hardly realise they have grounds for a medical negligence claim since their doctor eventually gives the correct diagnosis.

Some of the most common examples of delayed diagnosis include:

  • Failing to listen to a patient’s complaint
  • Failing to monitor vital changes to a patient’s condition
  • Performing a procedure before considering contraindications
  • Failing to refer patient for tests
  • Failing to consider differential diagnosis

For a patient’s delayed diagnosis claim to be valid, that delay must have had a negative impact on the health of the patient and be a result of negligent treatment.

Where and when does a delay in medical diagnosis take place?

In most cases more than not hospitals dispense the right information and beneficial treatment the majority of the time, however there are instances where they get it wrong.

A large number of cases of delayed diagnosis take place in A&E departments. A&E departments are known as extremely busy environments. Human error can happen, and doctors have been known to discharge patients from hospital with serious illnesses, infections and broken bones without other knowledge or a more serious condition. If there is a delay in treating someone whose condition could worsen rapidly, the doctor or nurse could be deemed negligent for breaching the duty of care they have for patients.

Another example of a delay in diagnosis is during childbirth. For example, if a mother was due to give birth but needed an emergency C-section and this wasn’t recognised by medical staff in a timely manner, this could be identified as a delay in diagnosis.

GPs can also be responsible for delayed diagnosis if they fail to identify symptoms of a serious medical condition, illness or infection, leaving the condition untreated, and as a result the GP has been negligent. This is common with cancer patients, as symptoms can be overlooked or assumed to be an alternative illness.

Medical professionals owe a duty of care to their patients to treat them to a reasonable standard of competence. If there is a misdiagnosis or improper treatment is given the patient may be able to claim personal injury compensation for misdiagnosis.

Doctor-Patient Relationship and Duty of Care

When a doctor examines a patient or gives treatment, a doctor-patient relationship is generally established. Doctors are required to provide competent care at all times and act in their capacity as doctors, including recognising and properly diagnosing potential health issues.

Was the Medical Practitioner Negligent?

Doctors act negligently when they fail to provide the quality of care that other reasonably competent doctors would have provided under similar circumstances. It is the patient’s burden of proving what quality of care other reasonably competent doctors would have provided in similar circumstances.

When making a claim, your solicitor will obtain the opinion of an independent doctor/medical expert that has experience with the type of medical problem at issue in the case. The medical expert will prepare a report on the patient’s treatment and the resulting medical condition. The medical expert will be asked to comment on whether the conduct of the treating doctor failed to meet that standard of care required of a competent doctor.

Did the Negligence Cause the Patient’s more harm or sustained further injury?

In order to be successful in a claim for negligence against a healthcare professional based on misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis, patients must prove that the medical professional’s negligence caused foreseeable harm. The harm may appear in various forms, including pain and suffering, cost, loss of earnings, and loss of the ability to main day to day activities in the same way as prior to the harm.

The critical issue is whether the injury/harm was caused by an error in diagnosis. It is not enough to merely show that injury/harm occurred after a doctor was negligent.To speak with one of our team about making a medical negligence claim, please call personalinjuriessolicitorsdublin today on 0872905001.

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