Can a Patient Sue a Doctor for Misdiagnosis?

Before a doctor can develop a treatment plan for a patient who has a health concern, they must accurately diagnose the problem.

Doctors diagnose conditions based on the patient’s symptoms, health history, various tests, and several other factors. If a doctor misdiagnoses a medical condition, it can have a serious impact on the patient’s health. If your health care provider misdiagnosed your condition, causing the condition to worsen, an experienced medical malpractice lawyer can help.

Not all cases of medical misdiagnosis involve negligence. The important thing to consider is whether the health care professional followed the medical standard of care that another similarly trained doctor would have followed under similar circumstances. A patient will only have a successful malpractice case if they can prove that the misdiagnosis caused the patient harm. The following are examples of how a misdiagnosis can jeopardize the health of the patient:

The patient was exposed to aggressive treatment that would not have been necessary if the condition was correctly diagnosed.

The patient had to endure radiation, chemotherapy, or other potentially harmful treatment.

The doctor performed an unnecessary surgical procedure.

The misdiagnosis increased the likelihood of serious complications or death.

Types of Medical Misdiagnosis

The following are examples of some of the most common types of medical misdiagnosis that can lead to serious health complications:

- Asthma is often misdiagnosed as bronchitis.

- Heart attack can be misdiagnosed as indigestion, a panic attack, or other health issues.

- A stroke may be misdiagnosed as a migraine, particularly in younger patients.

- A cancer misdiagnosis can lead to unnecessary rounds of chemotherapy and radiation, both of which can be painful and debilitating.

- Staph infections can be misdiagnosed as the common flu.

- Lymph node inflammation may be misdiagnosed as appendicitis.

A misdiagnosis generally involves the following scenarios:

- The health care provider did not screen for a medical condition.

- The health care provider did not refer the patient to a specialist.

- The lab results were interpreted incorrectly.

- The health care provider did not talk to the patient about their symptoms.

- The health care provider did not follow up on symptoms that were reported.

A medical misdiagnosis is one of the most common types of malpractice cases. Doctors sometimes ignore a patient’s symptoms so that they can avoid ordering a certain test that the insurance company may not cover. Unfortunately, this can cause the patient to suffer health complications and other injuries. In order to prove negligence, the patient must be able to establish that the doctor did not perform an important step in the diagnostic process.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Bryan J. Chant, Esq.
Bryan J. Chant is an experienced trial attorney vindicating the rights of injured people in Maryland’s courts. He is an alumnus of the William Mitchell College of Law, where he served as an Assistant Editor on the William Mitchell Law Review. His practice areas include personal injury and Workers’ Compensation.

Copyright LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton, P.A.

Disclaimer: Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication at the time it was written. It is not intended to provide legal advice or suggest a guaranteed outcome as individual situations will differ and the law may have changed since publication. Readers considering legal action should consult with an experienced lawyer to understand current laws they may affect a case. For specific technical or legal advice on the information provided and related topics, please contact the author.

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