Doctors are trained to diagnose patients based on a number of factors, including symptoms, past medical history, family history, and the physical exam. Doctors use these factors to come up with something called a “differential diagnosis,” which is a list of possible diagnoses or causes of the patients’ symptoms. While most doctors do their best to properly diagnose patients, sometimes they miss the mark. In fact, a failed diagnosis is the most common source of medical malpractice claims against primary care physicians.
Many of these medical malpractice claims involve doctors failing to diagnose patients with diseases such as cancer, heart attacks, and appendicitis. A missed diagnosis can mean greater injury, disease progression, or even death. These unfortunate consequences may have been prevented if the doctor made a proper and timely diagnosis.
Under Connecticut law, doctors can be held liable for failing to diagnose a disease. A missed diagnosis can take several forms. It can mean that the doctor failed to consider or list the patient's diagnosis on the differential diagnosis. Or, it can mean that the doctor failed to rule out the diagnosis with additional tests.
Failing to diagnosis a disease, on its own, is not enough to constitute medical malpractice. To be successful in a medical malpractice lawsuit, the patient must be able to show that a reasonably prudent doctor, under similar circumstances, would have made that same diagnosis. Unfortunately, this can be very difficult to prove. The doctor's degree of skill and expertise, the customary practices of other doctors in that area, and the level of available equipment are just a few of the factors that must be considered.
It can also be very difficult to prove that the patient suffered a worse prognosis as a result of the failed diagnosis. For example, if a doctor fails to timely diagnose a patient with cancer and the cancer spread to other parts of the body, it can be very difficult to prove that the cancer would not have spread if the diagnosis was made earlier.
Determining whether you have a medical malpractice claim due to a failed or delayed diagnosis is not easy. The best way to find out what your options are is to speak with an experienced medical malpractice attorney. The attorney can help you understand the strength of your case and guide you through the process of filing the lawsuit.