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Misdiagnosis and Delayed Diagnosis

When you are experiencing symptoms from an undiagnosed medical condition, fear of the unknown can sometimes feel as intense or uncomfortable as what’s ailing you. When a medical professional offers a diagnosis, even if it’s not one we want to hear, there is at least a small sense of relief. Whatever you have now has a name, and hopefully some sort of treatment to either help you recover or better manage your symptoms.

But what if this diagnosis is the wrong diagnosis? Or, what if it comes so late that you’ve missed a critical opportunity to cure an illness or reduce the harm it causes? Suddenly any sense of relief you felt or feel may be overshadowed by anger, sadness or despair over losing precious time to treat it.

Unfortunately, many medical patients will experience misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis during the course of their illness. Sometimes a patient’s symptoms may indicate multiple possible diagnoses. In other cases it may take time to perform diagnostic tests to rule out some possibilities or to confirm a suspected diagnosis. 

Medical professionals are not held to a standard of perfection. They can make mistakes in spite of adhering to best practises and the proper standards of care. However, if a medical provider has breached these standards due to negligence and you or a loved one has suffered a serious injury as a result, you may be able to receive compensation through a medical malpractice claim.

With a proven track record for results, Gluckstein Personal Injury Lawyers has the knowledge, experience and skill to help manage your misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis medical malpractice claim. Let us be your advocate as you seek what you rightfully deserve.

Why do these errors happen?

When patients present themselves to a medical provider with concerning symptoms, the medical professional must go through a number of steps as (s)he tries to discover the underlying cause. These usually include:

  • Identifying high risk patients requiring immediate care in triage situations (emergency rooms).
  • Getting a patient’s relevant medical history.
  • Performing a physical exam if required.
  • Ordering imaging, blood work or other diagnostic tests as needed based on symptoms.
  • Prescribing medication or other treatments based on a suspected or confirmed diagnosis as appropriate.
  • Ensuring a patient understands what self-monitoring or follow-up appointments are needed.

At any point during this series of steps, an error may occur that negatively affects a medical provider’s ability to come up with a correct and timely diagnosis. These errors may include:

  • Putting the individual into a lower priority patient pool.
  • Inadequate time spent with the patient.
  • Medical staff inexperience or overconfidence.
  • Failing to get and/or understand the relevant medical history.
  • Assuming symptoms common to multiple conditions are indicative of a less serious condition.
  • Errors in communication between the medical provider and the patient, diagnostic testing lab, or other medical staff.
  • Fragmented medical care.
  • Faulty tests or incorrectly reading or analyzing test results.
  • Poor follow-up care.

What illnesses or conditions are commonly diagnosed?

While any medical condition can be misdiagnosed, several conditions are more frequently misdiagnosed or prone to having delayed diagnosis. These include:

  • Diagnoses of exclusion (conditions determined by eliminating other similar conditions), such as irritable bowel syndrome, diastolic heart failure and chronic bronchitis.
  • Strokes.
  • Cancers (most commonly: breast cancer, childhood thyroid cancer, colorectal cancer, lymphoma, lung cancer, melanoma, mesothelioma, pancreatic cancer, uncommon cancers).
  • Lupus.
  • Lyme disease.
  • Degenerative diseases, including Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Fibromyalgia.
  • Chronic fatigue syndrome.

Damage caused by misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis.

If a patient experiences misdiagnosis, they may undergo unnecessary surgery, be prescribed unneeded and possibly harmful medications, and receive other treatment that could cause physical harm. 

Moreover, the time lost due to a misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis can cause a condition to worsen, cause additional bodily harm or disability, and may change from a treatable illness to a terminal illness. In addition to the physical harm that often results from a misdiagnosis, or a doctor error a patient and their loved ones may experience severe emotional distress during the period when there is no diagnosis or after the error has been identified. 

A patient’s ability to enjoy life may suffer if the misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis results in permanent injury or disability. If the patient is of working age or has not yet begun to work, these injuries may limit what types of jobs they can take or possibly prevent them from returning to work at all.

Preventing medical errors caused by misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis.

In the medical system, patients and their loved ones must often be their own advocates. While patients do not have the medical expertise their doctors have, they do know the symptoms they are experiencing best.

Searching on the Internet for what illnesses match your symptoms may lead some people to anticipate the worst diagnosis when most often it’s something much more benign. However, it is in your best interest to ask your medical provider how they came to their diagnosis and how or why they’ve ruled out other possible diagnoses. If your medical provider has not yet determined the cause of your symptoms, ask them what tests might be needed to rule out any of the more serious medical conditions. Unless they have strong and compelling reasons to deny ordering these tests, the better safe than sorry principle should apply.

If you have the presence of mind and the time to prepare for your doctor visit, prepare your own notes about your symptoms and any other relevant information that may be of help to your doctor. Remember, these professionals may see dozens of people each day and they may need to be reminded of things discussed at previous visits.

Finally, trust your gut or intuition if you feel something is still wrong. You are always entitled to a second opinion.

When does a mistake become medical malpractice?

If you discover you’ve been misdiagnosed and/or a delay in an accurate diagnosis has caused you or a loved one harm, you may have been a victim of medical malpractice. However, not all cases of misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis fall into this category. If medical providers have followed proper protocols and adhered to the standards of care required, they may still honestly come to the wrong conclusion or be unable to diagnose you in a timely manner.

As frustrating as they may be to someone who has suffered harm as a result, the medical providers would not be liable for the patient’s damages and losses. They may be methods to express your frustration outside of the legal system, such as contacting professional accrediting organizations or a patient ombudsman, but a lawsuit would not be successful.

Determining whether medical malpractice has occurred requires an investigation that includes a review of medical records, an independent expert’s assessment about whether the standard of care has been breached due to negligence, and the ability to demonstrate that the error caused or contributed to a patient suffering damages.

Gluckstein Personal Injury Lawyers can help.

With years of experience and a strong reputation within the personal injury legal field, Gluckstein’s misdiagnosis and delayed diagnosis medical negligence lawyers team can help you as you seek compensation for you or your loved one.

When you contact a member of our team for a no cost, no obligation consultation, we will listen to your story attentively and with empathy. After explaining your rights and various options, if you choose to pursue a medical negligence claim with us we will begin a preliminary investigation and start building a case. You do not have to worry about the financial resources needed to pursue justice. As your advocate, Gluckstein Personal Injury Lawyers will cover all expenses relating to the case. We only receive payment if we successfully negotiate a settlement for you or win a court-ordered award.

Full-circle client care.

We are recognized among our peers as leaders in the personal injury legal field, but we know that our clients deserve more than just professional representation. At Gluckstein Personal Injury Lawyers, we care about our clients as people and treat them like they’re family.

With team members who have intimate experience with personal injuries, we understand that at this difficult time in your life you deserve compassion and kindness from your lawyer as well as fierce advocacy for your needs. Trust the Gluckstein misdiagnosis and delayed diagnosis medical malpractice team to be here for you when you need us the most.

Ontario Misdiagnosis Medical Malpractice Lawyers.

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