When a Doctor Fails to Diagnose an Illness or Injury
One of a doctor's important responsibilities is to make an accurate and timely diagnosis of a patient's medical condition. Before proper treatment can begin, the doctor must identify the specific condition that must be remedied. Whether it is an injury, common illness or rare disease, a medical professional must act with a reasonable level of care in accordance with his or her training, position and duties. This may include ordering additional tests or referring a patient to a specialist if it goes beyond the doctor's area of expertise.
The failure to diagnose a medical condition is a potentially dangerous form of medical malpractice. It may lead to a patient receiving the wrong treatment or the wrong medication. If the patient is suffering from cancer, experiencing a heart attack or has suffered a serious injury, this may even lead to his or her untimely death.
Our New York medical malpractice attorneys are committed to holding negligent medical professionals accountable for failures to diagnose illnesses and injuries. Medical professionals have difficult jobs, no doubt, but they have been educated and received special training to give them the tools they need to help their patients, and this begins with an accurate diagnosis. Carelessness and inexperience are not excuses for a delayed diagnosis or diagnosis failure. If a doctor does not have the training to make the diagnosis, he or she should recommend referring the patient to a specialist or should order additional tests to get a better idea of what illness or injury a patient may have. By representing patients' interests inside and outside the courtroom, we work to recover financial compensation needed for medical bills, to make up for lost earnings and to help them pick up the pieces after their lives have been turned upside down.
How does a doctor diagnose a medical condition?
A patient may seek medical care because he or she is experiencing pain, nausea or other symptoms that may indicate a health problem. Or, a routine medical exam may show an abnormal result. In either scenario, a doctor will be faced with the need to diagnose whatever illness or injury the patient is suffering from. This may seem fairly straightforward, particularly considering the amount of education and training a medical doctor must undergo to become licensed, and most of the time a doctor will be able to make an accurate diagnosis without having to order a battery of tests or consult with a specialist.
However, there are literally thousands of different known diseases, illnesses and injuries. Some share similar or identical symptoms. Initial test results may even indicate one disease when a patient is actually suffering from another. Physicians, emergency room doctors and nurses and X-ray, CT scan and MRI technicians all have a duty to properly perform their jobs in order to make sure a patient is properly diagnosed.
So how does a doctor make a diagnosis? It starts with understanding the patient's primary complaint. For example, a young woman may seek medical attention because she has a sharp pain in her side. Taking the woman's complaint into account and also considering her age, gender and overall health, a doctor can greatly narrow down the potential problems. Next the doctor will consider the history of this complaint, if any. This may include how long it has been going on, whether the patient is experiencing other symptoms, if the patient has traveled anywhere recently, and so forth. All of this may prove pertinent as the doctor determines what is going on. From there, the doctor will perform a physical examination to note any abnormalities. The doctor may be nearly certain of a diagnosis at this point, but there are situations where additional tests may need to be ordered to confirm, or where the doctor may call in a specialist. A situation where a patient may have cancer is a good example of when additional tests will be ordered and when the doctor will make sure the patient begins working with an oncologist.
Mistakes and Carelessness Lead to a Failed Diagnosis
Professionals in the healthcare field are held to a high standard when it comes to negligence and wrongdoing. Though it is true that there are many thousands of different medical conditions and symptoms that a patient may experience, a doctor has an obligation to do everything in his or her power to make the right diagnosis. This is particularly crucial when it comes to progressive diseases such as cancer or life-threatening conditions such as heart attacks. If your doctor cut corners, misread test results or failed to order additional tests when a physical exam warranted this, you may have grounds for a medical malpractice lawsuit. Now is the time to talk to an attorney at Napoli Shkolnik PLLC about your options. We represent clients across New York and have additional offices located across the U.S. to help clients throughout the nation.