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Can you sue a doctor for a simple misdiagnosis?

Medicine isn't a perfect science -- doctors can examine a patient, run tests and pour over the results, but the diagnosis is ultimately an educated guess.

Most of the time, the diagnosis will be correct. Sometimes, the doctor will be wrong.

Often, a misdiagnosis isn't really negligence because the symptoms could have fit more than one disease -- it isn't until later on, when new symptoms reveal themselves, that it's possible to get a correct diagnosis. Some diseases, like multiple sclerosis and lupus, are even infamous for taking years to diagnose.

So when can you sue for a misdiagnosis? Ask yourself these questions:

1. Did the misdiagnosis result from something that was overlooked or ignored?

For example, imagine that you repeatedly told your doctor that you had joint pain and a rash, and the doctor just shrugged off your comments about the joint pain as the normal process of aging and gave you an ointment for the rash. He ignored your family history of psoriasis and overlooked the connection between the two symptoms that could have led to a diagnosis of psoriatic arthritis until after you suffered severe complications -- like damage to your heart valve.

That's an example of possible negligence. The doctor dismissed your concerns, failed to refer you to an appropriate specialist and probably caused a delay in the effective treatment of your disease. The delay likely caused your condition to worsen unnecessarily.

2. Were you harmed by the wrong treatment?

Sometimes a wrong diagnosis and wrong treatment don't do any good, but they also don't do any real harm. If the misdiagnosis and wrong treatment causes no recognizable harm, you may have a hard time making a case.

On the other hand, you may have a great case if the treatment made your condition worse. For example, imagine that your doctor diagnoses you with high blood pressure when you're really just showing a temporarily high reading due to stress and pain. The blood pressure medication causes your blood pressure to fall too low and you end up in the intensive care unit for a week at the hospital.

That could make a good case for negligence. The doctor failed to act with caution and injured you.

If you think you may be the victim of a misdiagnosis, an attorney can review your case and advise you of your options.

Source: FindLaw, "Failed/Erroneous Diagnosis and Treatment," accessed Sep. 08, 2017

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