Many medical malpractice cases are based upon harm that is inflicted directly on the patient. Perhaps the wrong medication was administered, or an error was made during surgery.

However, medical professionals also can indirectly cause harm to patients. Delayed diagnosis is one of the most common examples of this form of malpractice.

Causes of Delayed Diagnosis

Hospitals are crowded, busy places, and most doctors and nurses are stretched thin. For this reason, some patients do not receive immediate attention.

Oversights are easy to make in this harried environment, and sometimes a physical exam isn’t as thorough as it should be. In other cases, poor documentation may cause the doctor to miss critical factors in the patient’s medical history when making a diagnosis.

In some medical malpractice cases, the proper diagnostic tests (such as an X-ray, MRI or blood test) aren’t ordered or completed in a timely manner.

Delayed diagnosis also occurs when medical professional incorrectly interpret test results, often due to inexperience. In other cases, doctors may not recognize the signs and symptoms of rare conditions, as these may be beyond their scope of expertise.

Risks of Delay in Diagnosis

Many serious health conditions worsen over time, and some have dire consequences if they are not diagnosed in time.

Cancer, if left untreated, can spread to other areas of the body and progress to a point where recovery is unlikely, if not impossible. Heart attacks and strokes also can cause serious damage if patients do not receive prompt care.

Even infections that could be handled easily can cause serious harm or death if they are not identified and treated.

Delayed diagnosis often results in a more complicated treatment regimen, requiring expensive medications, tests and medical care. In some cases, such a delay could lead to death.

Proving a Medical Malpractice Case

Like other medical malpractice cases, the legal claim must prove that a doctor-patient relationship existed and that negligence occurred.

It also must be shown that the doctor did not act as any other reasonably competent medical professional would have, in diagnosing the patient. In delayed diagnosis cases, negligence often boils down to speed, or how quickly other medical professionals would have diagnosed the condition.

Patients or their families also must prove that the negligence caused harm. A medical malpractice claim can be filed to recover compensation for pain and suffering, medical expenses and loss of income or future earning capacity.

If you or a loved one has been harmed by the actions ― or inactions ― of a doctor or other medical professional, it is important to contact an attorney promptly.

In the Boise area, the experienced legal team at the Montgomery Dowdle Law Offices will provide a complimentary consultation to review the facts of your case, and help you establish your medical malpractice claim.