As a general rule, failure to diagnose or even a delay in it is diagnose a disease is actionable, if it has resulted in injury or disease progression above and beyond that which would have resulted from a timely diagnosis. In spite of the actionability, it may be hard to prove something like this. For example, a patient may allege that a doctor failed to timely diagnose a certain cancer, resulting in “metastasis” (spread of the cancer to other organs or tissues). But experts may testify that “micrometastasis” (spreading of the disease at the cellular level) may occur as much as ten years before a first tumor has been diagnosed, and cancerous cells may have already traveled in the bloodstream and lodged elsewhere, eventually to grow into new tumors. Thus, it can be really hard for the patient to establish the it has suffered something worse because of the delay or failure in diagnosis.
If the patient does not really need the medication, giving medical treatments may even bring harm to him. This will be on top of the existing and real condition that a patient has already been facing.
Differential diagnosis is often done by experienced doctors and medical professionals. Doing so calls for a doctor to list, in descending order of probability, his or her impressions or “differing” diagnoses of possible causes for a patient’s presenting symptoms. The key question in assessing a misdiagnosis for malpractice is to ask what diagnoses a reasonably prudent doctor, under similar circumstances, would have considered as potential causes for the patient’s symptoms. If the doctor listed the true diagnosis needed by a patient, or was able to list but failed to execute is, there could be negligence on his part.
Failure to Treat and Erroneous Treatment
Most often, the doctors get into trouble because they hastily dismiss or discontinue the supposedly diagnosis of the patients by alleging that the patients do not really need it. When this happens, the patient’s health condition may suffer. For example only, an undiagnosed splinter or chip in a broken bone may result in the lodging of a piece of bone in soft tissue or internal bleeding caused by the sharp edge of the splintered bone.
Erroneous treatment is most likely to occur as a result of a misdiagnosis. However, a doctor who has correctly diagnosed a disease or condition may nonetheless fail to properly treat it. For some conditions, the doctors erred when they are trying to utilize something new but not yet tested in the hope of helping out the patient.