Our biggest fear when we visit the doctor is that something serious will be discovered. Sometimes, however, what isn’t discovered is far more dangerous. If you are misdiagnosed with an illness, the real problem may go undetected for a long time. When this happens, you could face significant treatment to get healthy again. And unfortunately, for many patients, a misdiagnosis is a death sentence.
We trust our health care providers to perform their duties with our best interests in mind. But when a disease is misdiagnosed, it is often the result of malpractice. At Cooper Schall & Levy, we understand the devastating effects that malpractice can have. That’s why our medical malpractice attorney works for our clients and doesn’t quit until they get the justice they deserve.
What Are Some Commonly Misdiagnosed Conditions?
Any disease can be overlooked or mistaken for something else. Some of the most commonly misdiagnosed illnesses include:
- Heart attack
- Cancer (breast, cervical, prostate, and others)
- Parkinson’s disease
- Lyme disease
- Multiple sclerosis
- Pulmonary embolism
What Are The Consequences Of A Misdiagnosis?
An incorrect diagnosis will have medical, financial, mental, and emotional consequences for the patient, none of which would have occurred had the correct problem been identified in the first place. The patient can expect at least the following:
- Worsening of the actual disease
- Surgeries and treatments, many of which may be dangerous, invasive, and even life-threatening
- Unnecessary treatment for the wrong disease
- Side effects from medicines prescribed for the wrong disease
- A significant amount of time to obtain necessary remedial treatment
- More medical bills and other costs
- The anxiety and stress of worrying about your eventual outcome
For some patients, a misdiagnosis means eventual and unnecessary death. This not only destroys the patient’s quality of his or her remaining life but will have severe repercussions for his or her family. As a result, in many instances, the family is able to pursue wrongful death claims.
Why Might A Misdiagnosis Happen?
Doctors, hospitals, and other health care professionals are obligated to provide their patients with a certain level of care. But mistakes happen, and one of the more serious ones is misdiagnosing a disease or illness.
There are numerous reasons a misdiagnosis can happen, including:
- Mistaking the symptoms of one disease for something else. The signs and symptoms of serious diseases are often mistaken for something more benign. For example, lymphoma has some symptoms that resemble those of the common cold.
- Not ordering necessary tests. For many patients, a reasonably careful doctor should order tests to determine if something more serious is present. Failure to do so could constitute malpractice. If necessary testing is not done, it is very likely that the ability to effectively treat the disease will be lost.
- Misreading test results. If tests are ordered for the patient, the physician will need to interpret the test results. Perhaps those results reveal something more serious than was initially suspected. But if the doctor overlooks something, then those signs may never be noticed.
- Overworked and understaffed offices. We all know doctors are some of the busiest professionals, but that is no excuse for negligence. Unfortunately, too many doctors are overworked, rushing from one patient to another, and not supported with adequate staff.
- Failing to follow up with patients. Once a disease is diagnosed, your doctor should follow up with you later to determine whether your condition has worsened or changed in some other way. Monitoring your condition is key to verifying that your diagnosis was accurate in the first place.
- Not collecting vital patient information. When you visit your doctor, the nurse needs to ask about your symptoms, your family history, and other important information. Not asking the right questions can have life-changing consequences later.
- Not referring patients when necessary. If your doctor is not familiar with your disease or has questions about what it actually is, he or she has an obligation to refer you to someone who knows.
- Medical errors. Mixing up your records, using defective tests or machines, and other errors can lead to an incorrect diagnosis.
How Do I Prove Malpractice?
Not every instance of a misdiagnosis is the result of malpractice. Doctors cannot possibly know everything, and the law does not expect them to. However, an unreasonable error – considering the disease and the expected competence of the health care professional under the circumstances – likely indicates malpractice. In order to succeed on a malpractice claim, your attorney will need to prove the following:
- The existence of a doctor-patient relationship
- Some act of negligence on the part of your physician or health care provider
- Injuries resulting from the negligence
- Damages (medical, financial, and otherwise) resulting from the injuries
The burden of proof is on the injured patient, which is why having experienced legal representation is essential. In Pennsylvania, patients generally have two years from the date of injury in which to file a lawsuit. This time period may be extended, however, if the patient did not know, or could not have reasonably known, about the injury until later. Because the statute of limitations may prevent you from taking legal action, it is best to consult our medical malpractice attorneys immediately upon learning of the misdiagnosis.
What Damages May I Be Able To Recover?
Depending on your particular case, you could be eligible for:
- Medical bills for past, present, and future treatments
- Costs for prescription drugs
- Lost wages for time missed because of treatment
- Decreased earning capacity if your worsening health affects your ability to work
- Pain and suffering and emotional distress
- Wrongful death damages in the event the patient dies
Contact Our Philadelphia Misdiagnosis Attorney
If you’ve suffered because of a misdiagnosis, the attorneys of Cooper Schall & Levy are here to help. We will investigate your case, advise you of your legal rights and help you and your loved ones obtain just compensation. We believe that no one should be forced to suffer because of a misdiagnosis and are dedicated to holding responsible parties accountable for medical malpractice. Please contact our office to set up a free consultation.