Becker & Becker: Pittsburgh Personal Injury Lawyers

Failure to Diagnose Lawyer - Pittsburgh

It is difficult, if not impossible, to consider yourself lucky when faced with a serious diagnosis, but for the millions of Americans whose illnesses are misdiagnosed or missed altogether by their doctors, it is a luck they wish they had. An accurate diagnosis is the crucial first step to catching your illness at its early, most treatable stages, getting the most effective treatments, and avoiding costly and unnecessary procedures.

If your serious illness was misdiagnosed resulting in further and unnecessary injury, our medical malpractice lawyers in Pittsburgh may be able to help.

What is misdiagnosis or a failure to diagnose?

Upon finding a lump in her breast, a patient follows up with her doctor, who orders a biopsy of the suspicious mass. Although the tumor is cancerous, careless handling of the tissue samples results in the swapping of two patients’ results and the cancer patient receives an incorrect benign diagnosis. This failure to diagnose breast cancer creates an unnecessary delay in treatment, potentially reducing or eliminating the patient’s chance of survival.

Such a case is perhaps the first type that comes to mind when considering failure to diagnose lawsuits. However, just as a dangerous condition can be overlooked, a more serious condition can be incorrectly assigned to a set of symptoms for which there is no cause for alarm.

In the case of swapped test results, not only does the cancer patient receive the wrong diagnosis, but a healthy woman is incorrectly diagnosed with breast cancer. If the proper steps and procedures to verify the results aren’t followed, the doctor of the healthy patient may order unnecessary chemotherapy or surgery. An unnecessary mastectomy and/or difficult follow up treatments may be just as devastating as a missed diagnosis of serious illness.

What makes a misdiagnosis medical malpractice?

Evaluating symptoms and test results to make a diagnosis is not a perfect science. Doctors cannot, and are not, expected to be right every time, all the time.

What makes certain cases of misdiagnosis medical malpractice is a deviation from the “standard of care.” In other words, if a health care provider with similar qualifications would have recognized the symptoms of your illness, ordered appropriate tests, taken a thorough patient history, or properly managed follow up care, your misdiagnosis may be medical malpractice.

It is also important to note, however, that if there is no damage, loss, or injury as a result of the failure to diagnose, there may be no basis for a medical malpractice claim.

Our misdiagnosis medical malpractice lawyers evaluate each case individually, consulting with specialists and appropriate diagnosticians to fairly and accurately

What are the causes behind a misdiagnosis or failure to diagnose?

An October 2006 study in the Annals of Internal Medicine looked at more than 300 malpractice cases determined that a failure to order appropriate tests was a problem in 55% of misdiagnosis malpractice claims. The break down of factors follows:

As becomes obvious with the percentages assigned these factors, a single incidence of misdiagnosis malpractice generally has more than one cause behind the failure to diagnose. Within these issues, the primary factors contributing to these errors were cited as:

As the first item—failure in judgment—shows, failure to diagnose cases are often those where simple "common sense" has been left out. A doctor has failed to take a basic patient history, a nurse has skipped reporting a change in symptoms, or a specialist has failed to request a standard test.

What conditions are commonly misdiagnosed or missed?

Some of the most common complaints our clients have: