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A Common Type of Medical Malpractice: Delayed Diagnosis

Posted on November 9, 2015 by Kelly Wolford
Doctors Examining Medical Records

A misdiagnosis or a delayed diagnosis is a common medical mistake that impacts the lives of patients and their families in Albany and across the country.

As NBC News reports, “most Americans” will receive a delayed or wrong diagnosis at some point in their lifetime. Citing a report by the National Academy of Medicine, NBC states that at least five percent of adults who undergo outpatient care experience a diagnostic error. Additionally, diagnostic errors account for between six and 17 percent of adverse hospital events.

When a delayed diagnosis or a misdiagnosis results in the worsening of a health condition or disease, the impacted patient may have grounds to file a medical malpractice claim. It is important to consult with an experienced New York medical malpractice attorney to learn more about your legal rights.

What Is a Delayed Diagnosis?

A delayed diagnosis and a missed diagnosis are similar but not quite the same.

A delayed diagnosis refers to an instance where a patient’s health condition, disease or ailment is not diagnosed within a reasonable amount of time. It does not refer to instances when a patient does not seek medical care.

Instead, a delayed diagnosis specifically means that the patient sought medical care – for whatever reason – but the treating physician or hospital did not diagnose the actual condition from which the patient was suffering.

For instance, a patient may have been suffering from lung cancer that went undetected by doctors for many years.

A misdiagnosis, on the other hand, refers to an instance where the doctor does make a diagnosis for a condition, but the diagnosis is not correct.

For example, a doctor may diagnose a patient with bladder cancer and start the patient on treatment for that cancer when, in fact, the patient has prostate cancer and should be receiving a different from of treatment.

When Delayed Diagnosis is Medical Malpractice

A delayed diagnosis is not always a type of medical malpractice. For example, as suggested above, if the patient does not seek medical care, then a doctor cannot be held liable for failing to make an accurate diagnosis.

Similarly, if the patient does not report certain symptoms to the doctor or withholds information from the doctor that would be necessary to make a proper diagnosis, then it cannot be said that the doctor committed an act of malpractice.

In fact, a physician only commits medical malpractice in the event that he or she violates the medical standard of care that is owed to a patient. The following examples illustrate scenarios in which a doctor may have committed malpractice in regards to an incorrect or delayed medical diagnosis:

  • A doctor notices abnormal levels during a routine blood check but does not order further tests
  • A patient reports certain symptoms but the doctor dismisses these symptoms as being signs of a less-serious illness
  • A patient’s lab work is lost, confused or conducted incorrectly
  • A doctor fails to refer a patient to a specialist when all signs indicate that she or he should do so
  • The doctor should have taken further action such as conducting different tests or asking different questions but did not do so.

Furthermore, the doctor must have done something that a reasonable physician in the same position would not have done or failed to have done something that a reasonable physician in the same circumstance would have done.

Did the Delayed Diagnosis Lead to Harm?

Another component of a medical malpractice claim is proving that the delayed diagnosis or misdiagnosis caused actual harm to a patient.

For example, if a patient’s cancer was not detected early on due to physician negligence when it should have—and could have—been detected, and if the cancer spreads as a direct result, then malpractice in the form of a delayed cancer diagnosis has occurred.

In other words, malpractice only occurs when the patient suffers a degree of harm that he or she would not have suffered otherwise but for the act of negligence committed by the physician or other healthcare professional.

How Do You File a Medical Malpractice Claim for Delayed Diagnosis in New York?

A delayed diagnosis can be devastating for patients and their families. Just consider the example above: If cancer spreads through a patient’s body, that patient may suffer more pain, face a decreased chance of survival and incur more medical bills. The patient may even die as a direct result.

When a delayed diagnosis or misdiagnosis has caused undue patient harm, the patient (or his or her surviving family members) has the right to file a medical malpractice claim against the at-fault party. Those who may include the physician and the hospital or clinic that employs the physician.

Under New York Civil Practice Law, all actions for medical malpractice must be filed within two and a half years from the date that the act or omission occurred. Under certain circumstance, this time period may be increased.

How Can a Delayed Cancer Diagnosis Lawyer Help Me?

Walking into your doctor’s office and being hit with the news that you are suffering from a disease or illness that has progressed because of a lack of detection is terrifying.

In spite of the fear and anxiety that you are probably experiencing, we want you to know that you do have the right to legal action.

Our experienced Albany delayed cancer diagnosis attorneys will advocate on your behalf to help you seek all compensation that you deserve. This includes seeking damages for your pain and suffering, your medical bills, your lost wages and all other damages related to the act of suspected medical malpractice.

Please, do not wait to pick up the phone and contact the legal team at Powers & Santola, LLP. Our New York medical malpractice attorneys can meet with you right away to conduct a careful review of your case and help you to understand the options you may have for seeking a recovery.