A patient who has been incorrectly diagnosed with a medical condition could potentially suffer serious harm. Misdiagnosis can occur if a doctor is impatient, there was an error in a lab report, or a test result was misread. A perfectly healthy patient could receive a grim diagnosis or a sick patient could be sent home, potentially worsening their illness. When a misdiagnosis leads to serious injury or death, the medical professional or institution that was negligent could be liable for any damages that resulted.
Doctors and patients determine treatment based on a diagnosis. Patients who receive incorrect diagnosis, or a misdiagnosis, may undergo unnecessary or inappropriate treatment or could fail to receive the treatment they need to save their life or stop future complications from occurring. There are several types of misdiagnosis, including:
- Failure to Diagnose an Underlying Condition – when a physician does not identify the underlying cause of their patient’s medical condition, a misdiagnosis can occur. When an underlying condition has been overlooked, the treatment of the ailment that was diagnosed could be incorrect or inadequate.
- Failure to Identify the Subtype – when a doctor has failed to identify the subtype of the patient’s condition, a misdiagnosis can occur. This identification is not always necessary. However, in some cases, such as when a patient suffers from diabetes, heart problems, or a similar condition, failing to identify a subtype may be particularly harmful.
- False Negative – false negatives occur when the patient is tested for a disease that they have, but a medical error leads the patient to think they are healthy. This can be very devastating because the patient will be sent home without having received the proper treatment or follow-up care.
- False Positive – this type of misdiagnosis can occur when the doctor mistakes the symptoms of one disease for another, resulting in the patient being misdiagnosed. In other cases, the negligent doctor may even diagnose a patient who is healthy with a disease they do not suffer from.
While every medical condition could be misdiagnosed, there are certain diseases that are misdiagnosed more frequently, including:
- Breast cancer
- Bacterial meningitis
- Cervical cancer
- Heart attack
- Lung cancer
- Ovarian cancer
- Pulmonary embolism
- Testicular cancer
Mistreatment of these diseases may not result only from a doctor’s misdiagnosis. There may also be errors in diagnostic testing, which could also lead to mistreatment. A variety of conditions are diagnosed using medical imaging, and unfortunately the technician or specialist reading the film may make an error.
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