When someone recognizes unusual symptoms in themselves, they will likely make an appointment to see a physician if the symptoms are severe enough or persist for too long. A doctor has training that can help them determine the underlying cause of their symptoms. They also have access to testing that can rule out certain conditions or provide an affirmative diagnosis.
The unfortunate truth for millions of people in the United States every year is that doctors who are rushed, burned-out or biased can make major mistakes during the diagnostic process that end up harming their patients. Failing to diagnose someone could lead to far higher medical expenses or in some cases, the patient’s death.
Many conditions will progress if left untreated
Some people will go to the doctor for minor medical conditions, like a seasonal cold, that their body will be able to resolve on its own. They may not actually require any medical intervention to get better. However, perhaps that infection is far more severe and what they actually have is pneumonia. They may require treatment to get better. An early diagnosis might mean that someone only requires medication, but a delayed diagnosis when someone has an infection might lead to hospitalization and organ damage or worse.
Additionally, it can be very easy for doctors to overlook the symptoms associated with different cancers, especially if the patient only presents issues like pain, difficulty sleeping and other generic symptoms. Unfortunately, some types of cancer can spread very aggressively, going from a tumor that a surgeon could remove to a metastasized, systemic cancer in a matter of months. Best practices for diagnostic procedures require that doctors first rule out the worst possible conditions or seek an affirmative diagnosis, when possible, by using imaging technology and laboratory tests. Many diagnostic failures do not come to light until someone’s condition worsens or they die.
Both those who have suffered from misdiagnosis or a delayed diagnosis of a harmful condition and those grieving the potentially preventable death of a loved one may be in a position to initiate a medical malpractice lawsuit over the diagnostic failure that occurred. Pursuing a medical malpractice lawsuit can provide justice for people affected by medical errors.