When Can An Error In Diagnosis Become Grounds For Medical Malpractice Suit?

Three things must take place in order for an error in diagnosis to become grounds for a medical malpractice suit. The doctor or medical facility must make a mistake in the diagnosis of a patient’s condition, or must fail to try making a diagnosis. Then that mistake or failure must pave the way for improper medical care, delayed treatment or a denial of treatment. Finally, one of those three situations must cause a worsening of the patient’s condition.

What are the different ways by which a doctor could make an error while diagnosing a patient?

• The physician could offer an incorrect diagnosis.
• The physician could delay announcement of the diagnosis.
• The doctor could ignore certain test findings, which shed light on a diagnosis.
• The doctor could fail to recognize certain complications, which changed or aggravated an existing condition.

What facts must be proven, in order to win a medical malpractice suit that is based on an error in diagnosis?

It must be shown that there was a doctor-patient relationship between the diagnosed patient and the diagnosing physician. The diagnosis had not been made by a physician that knew nothing about the patient’s medical history. The existence of such a relationship would normally push a patient to trust a given doctor’s diagnosis.

The judge or jury must find that the physician failed to live up to society’s expectations, with regard to the standard of care that gets offered to patients. The delivered care was improper, delayed or denied. It could be that the effort to arrive at a diagnosis, did not proceed in the way expected.

Traditionally, doctors searching for a diagnosis make a list of the possible diagnoses and the tests for confirming or refuting that hypothesized diagnosis. An error in that list could facilitate the making of a diagnostic mistake. By the same token, the failure to perform every test related to a hypothesized problem could lead to commission of a diagnostic error.

Finally, it must be proven that the doctor’s diagnostic error caused the injury suffered by the patient. The injury could take the form a visible worsening of the patient’s condition. Alternatively, it could arise as a proximate injury, one that triggered a complication, and thus allowed a worsening of the patient’s condition.

Understand that the mistake does not have to be made by a physician. It could be made by a technician at a testing lab, or by someone that created the equipment or the solutions that were used during performance of a given test. The ICBC Lawyers in Burnaby for the ill patient would need to investigate each of those possibilities. Only then could it be determined exactly who to name as the responsible party in a lawsuit.