Diagnosis Errors Lawyer in Washington, D.C.
Being diagnosed with a life-threatening or terminal condition is terrifying. The only thing worse is learning that the condition could have been detected at a much earlier stage and led to a better prognosis. Routine health screenings, cancer screenings, blood work and radiological exams are all designed to catch conditions so that health care professionals can offer immediate, life-saving treatment that gives patients the best chance of survival.
At The Law Offices of Dr. Michael M. Wilson, MD, JD & Associates, our experienced medical malpractice attorneys are both physicians and lawyers. They know the law and the science behind medical misdiagnosis cases. Our law firm can carefully review the facts of your case to determine if a healthcare provider was negligent in missing the diagnosis at a crucial point in your care. And if a loved one has unnecessarily died due to a preventable or treatable medical condition, we can help you figure out why it happened and pursue compensation on your behalf. To learn more, contact us today for a free consultation.
What are the Most Commonly Misdiagnosed Medical Conditions?
Among all the possible ways that health care providers can make errors, the following represent some of the most frequent and common types of misdiagnosis cases we tend to see:
- Cancer – This is definitely the most common type of misdiagnosis. Some cancers are highly aggressive, while others can be caught early and treated with relatively minor expense and long-term health consequences. But if allowed to progress too far, a patient can reach a point where treatment is no longer possible.
- Organ damage – People who are in traumatic accidents like car crashes or falls must be carefully evaluated to make sure there is no damage to internal organs. If missed, these conditions can rapidly turn fatal.
- AIDS/HIV – Despite recent progress in stem cell research, HIV remains a death sentence to most people who receive the terrible news. But with proper early diagnosis and treatment, many HIV sufferers can lead long and healthy lives by slowing the development of the AIDS disease.
- Heart problems – Something as seemingly minor as a dysrhythmia or arrhythmia can lead to an acute myocardial infarction (heart attack). Doctors must carefully pay attention to their patients’ vital signs, heart rhythms and other symptoms. Sometimes, a patient can be treated with medications that slow the progress of heart disease, but failing to do so can lead to an unexpected death.
- Pregnancy issues – Most pregnancies actually have some sort of minor issue to track. Whether it is a slightly elevated sugar level or concerns about development, doctors should carefully monitor these issues, recommend lifestyle changes, provide medications, and help patients to make difficult decisions about whether to induce, perform a C-section or terminate the pregnancy for health reasons. When a provider fails to identify things like placental abruption and gestational diabetes, the mother and baby can both be placed in jeopardy. The same is true of preeclampsia.
- Infections – Vulnerable patients and those with already weakened immune systems are at a great risk of infection. In some health care environments such as long-term care facilities, rehabilitation centers and acute care facilities, seniors and those with chronic conditions may be exposed to bacteria like c-diff colitis, MRSA and staph infections. If allowed to progress without being caught and treated early, these infections can quickly cause the patient to decline and prove fatal.
What are the Categories of Medical Misdiagnoses?
Misdiagnosis cases generally fall in the following six categories:
- Incorrect diagnosis – This happens where a diagnosis is rendered, and treatment begins, but it’s for the wrong condition. This type of misdiagnosis can actually lead to worse outcomes than simply failing to treat the condition at all.
- Delayed diagnosis – This happens when the diagnosis is correct. However, so much time has passed, that it is too late to make a difference in the patient’s prognosis.
- Causal misdiagnosis – Sometimes, health care professionals get the condition right, but they miss the cause. For instance, a doctor might diagnose a heart condition but miss the underlying prolapse or murmur, leading to a repeat of the problem even with treatment.
- Medication issues – A doctor may treat a medical condition that doesn’t even exist because the doctor failed to recognize side effects of medications. For instance, certain weight loss medications can create serious chest pains and mimic a heart attack in some patients. A doctor who mistakes a medication error for a heart attack may provide dangerous emergency treatment that can actually harm the patient rather than help.
- Wrong patient – This type of misdiagnosis is shocking for family members, especially after a loved one has died. Each year, health care providers cause thousands of injuries due to mixing up prescriptions and medical records. It is not uncommon for one patient’s records to get accidentally placed with another patient’s records. If a physician or nurse relies on the wrong patient chart or reads one chart and then provides the care to the wrong patient, it can prove terribly dangerous or fatal. What may be a life-saving insulin shot for one patient, may prove fatal to another patient in the room next door.
- Improper differential diagnosis – All physicians should approach their diagnoses through the use of a differential diagnosis procedure. For most conditions, there are fairly standardized methods for carefully evaluating a patient. Doctors start by narrowing the scope of symptoms to determine the possible causes. Then they look at the most likely conditions and often try less invasive treatments in order to rule out conditions. They do this to narrow down the field of possibilities to one diagnosis. Problems happen when doctors fail to rely on the proven methods of diagnosis. It might work most of the time, but when they fail to order the proper tests or rely on instincts rather than science, the results can prove deadly.
What are the Consequences of a Delayed Diagnosis?
In many cases, a delayed diagnosis means the loss of any possible chance of recovery or survival. This is most commonly seen in cases of a delayed cancer diagnosis. Failing to identify and treat cancer early can mean a completely preventable and unnecessary death for the victim. Of course, many other conditions are more easily treated if caught early. Bedsores are another good example. A patient may have a minor bruise that, with proper care, could be resolved quickly with little pain. But if allowed to go undiagnosed or treated, it can quickly deteriorate, become infected and lead to death.
When the victim of a delayed diagnosis is a breadwinner for the family, the surviving loved ones may be left without any income or support, no health insurance and not even a roof over their heads. Even if the injured person is not working, but instead is the homemaker in charge of raising the children or caring for the home, this can mean the complete loss of household services. Fortunately, the law provides clear options for victims and their loved ones.
How do You Prove a Misdiagnosis Claim?
Proving medical malpractice involves more than proving an error or mistake. The law requires four basic elements to be established:
- Duty/standard of care – You must prove what a reasonable health care provider with the same training and qualifications would have done under the same circumstances. It’s not about what reasonable lay people would do, so you typically must have a competent medical expert who is able to set forth the appropriate standard for similarly situated providers. In these cases, it’s all about figuring out the appropriate diagnostic tests and what a physician should have done.
- Violation/breach – You have to prove exactly how the doctor missed the diagnosis. What went wrong? Why? Once you prove that the healthcare provider negligently failed to meet the standard of care, then you must prove how that caused the injury.
- Causation – This is often the toughest thing to prove in a cancer misdiagnosis case. After all, if you already suffered from a medical condition, your condition may have deteriorated and been untreatable anyway. The key is whether the failure to diagnose and treat early had a direct impact on your overall ability to recover or survive.
- Damages – You must show actual damages. These damages can include lost income and support, lost chance of survival, medical expenses for treating the condition, unnecessary pain and suffering and emotional distress.
Contact Our Washington D.C. Misdiagnosis Lawyers Today
After a serious or fatal missed medical condition, you need a trained doctor and lawyer on your side who can obtain your treatment records and evaluate your options under the law. At The Law Offices of Dr. Michael M. Wilson, MD, JD & Associates, we will carefully review your records, talk to witnesses and consult with highly knowledgeable medical professionals – all in an effort to determine if you have a right to compensation. Through the years, our firm has recovered more than $100 million on behalf of our clients in Washington, D.C., Maryland and throughout the country.
To learn more about your rights and talk to a misdiagnosis lawyer, contact us today to schedule a free consultation. Our consultations are free, and we will take a fee only if we succeed in collecting compensation for you.