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Is failure to diagnose an illness medical malpractice?

When a patient sees a medical professional and explains a set of symptoms, the patient can reasonably expect that tests will be conducted, the symptoms will be taken into account and a diagnosis will be given. Once there is a diagnosis, treatment can begin. But, what if the medical professional diagnoses the wrong malady, or worse, fails altogether to diagnose an illness or disease? In Pennsylvania, this can rise to the level of medical malpractice.

Failure to diagnose an illness or an injury can create a situation in which the disease becomes more severe or the illness is exacerbated, causing more damage and suffering to the body. In some cases -- for example, if a disease like a cancer is believed to be something else -- a misdiagnosis can be life-threatening. For a failure to or an erroneous diagnosis to be considered malpractice, though, certain factors must be present.

The threshold question in determining whether a misdiagnosis or failure to diagnose an illness is malpractice is to determine whether a reasonable doctor could have come up with the same diagnosis under similar circumstances and ruled out the true cause of the symptoms. This can make a medical malpractice case difficult to prove. This is why an attorney familiar with the field is best situated to handle such cases.

When a patient or their loved ones believe that a medical professional should have diagnosed an illness sooner and that failure to diagnose sooner resulted in harm, they may be entitled to compensation for the additional medical bills and suffering that resulted from incorrect or lack of treatment. A lawyer experienced in medical malpractice can help determine whether the medical professional acted inappropriately. The seasoned attorney can then help the patient get the compensation they deserve.

Source:, "Failed/Erroneous Diagnosis and Treatment," accessed on Jan. 23, 2018

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