The Many Faces of Medical Malpractice, Part 1: Diagnosis Error

patient cardiogram monitoring in operation roomMedical malpractice occurs when doctors or other healthcare professionals commit negligence that leads to a patient’s injury. There are four main categories in medical malpractice lawsuits: diagnosis errors, negligence affecting pregnancy and childbirth, mistakes in prescribing or administration medication and surgical error. Over the course of this month, we will be discussing each of these categories in depth.

Misdiagnosis – The Most Common Type of Physician Error

Many medical malpractice lawsuits center on misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis of a condition. When a diagnosis error leads to incorrect, delayed or no treatment at all, the patient faces a worse prognosis. The patient’s condition could deteriorate and they can even die as a result.

An erroneous diagnosis is not enough for the patient to file a medical negligence lawsuit. Patients and their attorneys must be able to prove three things for a lawsuit to move forward:

  1. There is a doctor-patient relationship
  2. The doctor committed negligence by failing to provide treatment in a reasonably skilled and competent manner
  3. The doctor’s negligence caused injury to the patient

Other Types of Diagnosis Error

  • Missed diagnosis. This occurs when the doctor gives the patient a clean bill of health and fails to see that the patient does have an illness.
  • Delayed diagnosis. A major problem, especially in cancer cases, that happens when a doctor fails to identify the signs of disease, allowing it to progress further than it should have.
  • Failure to recognize complications. This occurs when the doctor identifies a disease correctly but fails to identify conditions that worsen the disease.
  • Failure to diagnose a related disease. The doctor identifies correctly a patient’s illness, but fails to diagnose a secondary disease.
  • Failure to diagnose an unrelated disease.


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