If a medical doctor misdiagnoses your condition, you lose what may be a critical window of opportunity for treatment. Even if they later correct their error, the delay may have allowed your condition to worsen, perhaps irrevocably. Therefore doctors must get diagnoses right the first time.
Sadly, doctors make many misdiagnoses, estimated to affect around 12 million patients and kill between 40,000 to 80,000 each year.
Doctors need to collaborate to ensure an accurate diagnosis
A doctor has plenty of people they can turn to when making a diagnosis. They can ask the patient and the patient’s family questions. They can consult colleagues or refer a patient to a specialist. If they make a wrong diagnosis without using the human resources available because they are rushing, overconfident or disinterested, that might give cause to claim medical negligence.
Hospitals also bear a responsibility to ensure their doctors make the correct diagnosis for every patient that comes in. Many hospitals do not have an adequate system to record and share information about diagnostic errors. A doctor who makes a mistake needs to know they have done so to allow them to correct their thinking the next time. Without that continuous feedback loop, ongoing learning becomes harder. Recording errors also allows hospital management to track staff performance and provide additional training where needed.
Do you have a valid claim for medical malpractice?
The law does not expect every doctor to get every decision correct — but they do need to meet a certain reasonable standard of care. If you believe that a doctor failed to consider alternative diagnoses, failed to take your symptoms into account or failed to run the appropriate tests, a medical malpractice claim may be necessary.