Medical Malpractice: Delayed Diagnosis

Medical Malpractice is generally defined as negligence by a health care provider in which the medical treatment provided falls below the accepted standard of practice and causes injury or death of a patient. Given simply, it’s a medical mistake or error by a health care provider. But did you know that a delay in diagnosis could also be considered medical malpractice?

Bell Legal Group | Delayed Diagnosis | Definition
What is delayed diagnosis?

When is a Delay in Treatment Medical Malpractice?

A delay may be considered medical malpractice when illness or injury moves beyond the treatable or reversible stage causing devastating permanent consequences to a patient or even death.

What if a medical facility employee treats my immediate symptoms but misses something much more serious?

Missed diagnosis and delayed diagnosis often go hand in hand and are among the two most common types of medical malpractice.

A missed diagnosis occurs when a health care provider diagnoses and or treats a patient for the wrong illness.  The initial failure to correctly diagnose an illness may add to the severity of the health issue over the passage of time.

An example of this happening might include a doctor diagnosing illness symptoms such as a deep cough and aching chest as a cold or the flu, sending a patient home with a prescription for plenty of fluids and rest.  Without the advantage of proper testing, there could be a more serious illness such as lung cancer present, and the proper diagnosis missed.  This missed diagnosis will most likely lead to a delay in the correct diagnosis, which is known as delayed diagnosis.  The patient’s trust in the doctor’s diagnosis might cause him to ignore symptoms and lose valuable time treating the more serious condition.

Can a delayed diagnosis occur when there is no misdiagnosis?

Absolutely. Delayed diagnosis can occur when a doctor or health care provider fails to order the correct tests in a timely manner.  Delays in diagnosis can directly impact a patient’s chance of recovery and survival.  The earlier an illness is correctly diagnosed and treated, the better the chance the patient has at recovery and survival.

An example of this could occur if a patient goes to his doctor’s office complaining of chest pains and tingling in the arm.  The doctor may correctly send the patient to the emergency room where standard protocol for a suspected heart attack is followed.  The EKG, vital sign, and blood work may all come back with negative results, yet the patient’s pain may still be present.  Perhaps the doctor decides to keep the patient in the ER for observation, but decides not to run any further tests.  Ultimately the patient dies and an autopsy reveals an aneurysm was present and further studies which might have included CSCAN and an MRI may have revealed the problem and saved the patient’s life.

Is there a specific set of criteria that must be present in order for a medical malpractice claim to be filed?

Most states require a general set of criteria be met before a medical malpractice case can be filed.

  • A doctor-patient relationship existed at the time of the diagnosis error.
  • The treating entity fails to get the patient’s informed consent prior to treatment.
  • A health care provider fails to provide the accepted standard of care required of a medical provider.
  • A health care provider fails to properly diagnose and begin treatment of a medical condition.
  • The patient suffered undue harm as a result of the actions of the medical provider.

Is there a specific time limit on making my medical malpractice claim?

Each state’s statute of limitations may be different; however, the state of South Carolina enforces different standards for public and private facilities and their employees.

  • The statute of limitations on Medical Malpractice claims for governmental medical facilities (i.e. public hospitals and clinics) and their employees is generally two years from the date that the patient knew or should have known about the claim.
  • The statute of limitations on medical malpractice claims for private and charitable facilities and their employees is generally three years from the date that the patient knew or should have known about the claim.

Do you think you or a loved one have a legitimate medical malpractice claim as a result of delayed diagnosis? If so, Bell Legal Group wants to hear from you immediately.  Contact us by calling (888) 717-2014 or by filling out the form here.