One of the most common types of medical malpractice is a misdiagnosis. This means that a doctor failed to diagnose a condition that a reasonable doctor would have made under the same or similar circumstances. Due to tort reform in Ohio, the misdiagnosis must involve a failure to acknowledge a medical condition that could cause death or catastrophic injury in order to have legal standing.
If you were misdiagnosed by a medical professional in Chardon and suffered as a result, you should contact a trustworthy medical malpractice attorney as soon as possible. Time is of the essence in these cases, both in terms of the statute of limitations as well as your health.
One common instance of misdiagnosis happens when someone comes to the emergency room with symptoms of an acute heart attack, but they are misdiagnosed with a stomach bug. Sometimes they die in the emergency room and the mistake is realized too late.
Another common example is the failure to diagnose cancer. A doctor might miss a lump in the patient’s chest x-ray that shows a clear nodule or tumor. While some of these cancers could be removed if caught early, a failure to diagnose might allow it to spread and reduce the patient’s chance of survival.
Doctors sometimes fail to diagnose a spinal infection or a spinal hematoma. A patient might go to the hospital for a staph infection after cutting their leg; and during hospitalization, they develop intense back pain and progressive leg weakness. A doctor might attribute those symptoms to lying in the bed too long. In reality, the patient had a spine infection that resulted in paralysis.
The most important way to prevent a misdiagnosis is for the doctor to properly carry out what is called a differential diagnosis. When a patient comes in with a set of symptoms, the doctor must identify all of the potential conditions that could cause the symptoms. They rank the medical conditions in order of priority, based on risk to the patient. The doctor first needs to rule out or treat conditions that may cause immediate death or catastrophic injury to the patient.
As an example: a patient comes to the emergency room complaining of nausea, vomiting, jaw pain, and is a diabetic. The doctor might believe they have a stomach bug that needs to run its course but with an outside chance that it might be a heart attack. Before that patient is diagnosed with the stomach bug, the doctor needs to rule out or treat any condition that is far more dangerous, which in this case would be an acute heart attack. A Chardon attorney should attempt to acquire medical records that could show whether the doctor carried out a differential diagnosis.
By the time an individual seeks legal representation, a great deal of communication has likely occurred between the patient and their doctor. Sometimes patients make the mistake of calling a lawyer before they know what is really wrong with them. If they believe their doctor misdiagnosed them, but do not have a second opinion or any other proof, that is not grounds for a lawsuit. A lawyer cannot provide medical advice. Before they can pursue a case, a corrected diagnosis must be made.
A malpractice lawyer should first ask the claimant what symptoms they were exhibiting when they initially sought treatment and how much time passed between the misdiagnosis and the corrected diagnosis. The biggest question is whether a correct diagnosis from the start would have changed the outcome. If the lost time does not affect the prognosis of the patient, it may be harder to successfully win the case.
When a misdiagnosis leads to death, it is important that loved ones request an autopsy so the definitive cause can be established. Often a lawyer will be unable to prove a case without an autopsy report.
It is important that an individual follows their doctor’s advice. Doctors may sometimes identify a possible cause but instructs the patient to see a specialist in order to know for sure. If the patient never follows up on the referral to confirm or rule out the tentative diagnosis, that could derail their legal case because they failed to follow orders.
A misdiagnosis case is unique from other malpractice cases in Chardon because the doctor or medical provider did not create the initial harm. However, the same types of negative outcomes could still occur if the misdiagnosis is not corrected: paralysis, brain injury, spine injury, loss of limb, or death.
When a medical professional fails to identify a medical emergency, or when they identify the wrong issue, it could have disastrous consequences for the patient. If you were given a misdiagnosis as a result of medical malpractice, you should reach out to a dedicated local attorney who could handle your case. Contact Tittle & Perlmuter today for a free consultation to discuss your misdiagnosis malpractice claim in Chardon.