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October 6, 2016

Your Rights after a Medical Misdiagnosis

Medical Malpractice Lawyer in Philadelphia

When you have symptoms of an illness arise, your first instinct should be to visit your doctor or another type of healthcare provider to have any medical condition diagnosed. There are many tools that doctors have for diagnosing illnesses and a proper diagnosis is imperative to ensure you receive the necessary treatment for your condition. Unfortunately, a large number of patients receive an inaccurate diagnosis each and every year in Philadelphia and across the U.S.

Common Harmful Misdiagnoses

While any medical condition could potentially be misdiagnosed, there are some conditions that are misdiagnosed more regularly than others and that can cause particular harm to patients. The following are some examples of commonly misdiagnosed illnesses.

Heart attack – One of the main symptoms of a heart attack is chest pain, however, there are many other signs that a patient has suffered a heart attack and may have serious heart disease. However, in many situations, a heart attack can be misdiagnosed as a panic attack or even simple indigestion. This results in patients with serious cardiovascular risks being sent home from the emergency department or doctor’s office with antacids or anti-anxiety medication. In many cases, these patients may have needed heart medicine or even surgery to protect them from future heart attacks. Without the proper treatment, many patients will suffer additional life-threatening heart attacks that could have been prevented with a proper diagnosis.

Cancer – Different types of cancers can have widely varying symptoms. Symptoms like fatigue, weakness, or nausea can often be misdiagnosed as a wide range of simpler illnesses, especially if there is no obvious tumor site. However, when cancer is diagnosed in the early stages of the disease, there is a much better chance of successfully treating cancer with less severe treatments. However, cancer that is not diagnosed initially can quickly progress into later stages of the disease, which can require significantly more invasive and aggressive treatments such as surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation. These treatments can make a cancer patient seriously ill and can lower their immune system, thereby increasing the risks of life-threatening illness. Sometimes, if a cancer diagnosis is delayed too long, the disease may not be treatable at all and may be fatal.

Meningitis – Meningitis is an often life-threatening illness that requires immediate medical treatment to save a patient’s life – especially if the patient is a child. Unfortunately, meningitis can often be misdiagnosed as a virus if a doctor does not perform the necessary tests to identify a bacterial illness. Bacterial meningitis1 is the most severe and life-threatening type. If bacterial meningitis is misdiagnosed as a viral condition, the patient may suffer brain damage or even death.

The above are only a few of the many serious situations that can result from a medical misdiagnosis.

Common Reasons for a Misdiagnosis

Sometimes, a misdiagnosis is based on simple human error, as other doctors in the same situation may have also missed the correct diagnosis. However, in many cases, a misdiagnosis occurs because a doctor was negligent. There are many forms of medical negligence2 that can result in a medical misdiagnosis, including the following:

  • Failing to ask the proper questions regarding symptoms;
  • Failing to inquire about a patient’s medical history;
  • Not performing the tests needed to screen for certain conditions;
  • Misinterpreting the results of lab or imaging tests;
  • Not referring a patient to a doctor in a more specialized practice when needed;
  • Failing to follow up with patients regarding the continuation of symptoms;
  • Not exploring alternative diagnoses when treatment is ineffective.

When Can You Sue Your Doctor?

In order to take legal action against your healthcare provider after a misdiagnosis, you must prove the following:

  • Your doctor’s errors rose to the level of medical negligence; and
  • You suffered harm because of the misdiagnosis.

For example, if you had the flu and your doctor diagnosed you as having a common cold, and you then recovered from your flu with no need for unnecessary treatment or long-lasting effects, you would not be able to show harm was caused by the misdiagnosis.

Discuss Your Rights with an Experienced Philadelphia Medical Malpractice Attorney

At The Levin Firm in Philadelphia, we can review your situation and help determine whether or not your misdiagnosis resulted in the right to bring legal action against your doctor. Our medical malpractice attorney has handled many cases involving misdiagnosis and other forms of malpractice, so please call for a free consultation at 215-825-5183 today.

1http://www.cdc.gov/meningitis/bacterial.html

2https://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/negligence

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