Failing To Diagnose Conditions Can Be Deadly


One of the most common medical malpractice claims is the failure to diagnose or misdiagnosis of a medical condition.  These types of claims account for about forty percent of medical malpractice cases filed.  Failure to diagnosis or misdiagnosis is defined as a physician’s failure to identify a medical condition and appropriately treat it, either by failing to identify the problem entirely or by incorrectly identifying the problem as one thing when it was something else.  Reasons why a physician may have failed to diagnose or has misdiagnosed a condition include:

  • Failure to perform regular screenings (especially in patients who are high-risk)
  • Failure to recognize the potential indications of a problem
  • Failure to pay attention to a patient’s complaints and not acting on them appropriately
  • Failure to order appropriate tests
  • Failure to provide adequate follow-up care (not following up on test results or ordering additional tests)
  • Failing to conduct a physical examination properly
  • Misinterpreting test results
  • Misdiagnosing a tumor as benign
  • Delay referring a patient to a specialist

Conditions physicians most often misdiagnose or fail to diagnose

There are some conditions that physicians fail to diagnose or misdiagnose more commonly than others, including:

  • Allergic reactions (such as anaphylaxis)
  • Cancers (breast, colon, prostate, lung, cervix, kidneys, ovaries, testicles, kidneys, skin, or esophagus)
  • Diabetic reactions (ketoacidosis and diabetic coma)
  • Lyme disease
  • Meningitis
  • Parasitic infections of the gastrointestinal tract
  • Periodontal disease
  • Stroke

Consequences of failure to diagnose or misdiagnosis

With improvements in disease detection and treatment, failure to diagnose a condition early can impact the ultimate outcome of a course of treatment or even whether treatment will even be an option.  This makes early and accurate diagnosis of conditions extremely important.  When a physician fails to diagnose or misdiagnoses a condition, regardless of the reason, the patient can be seriously harmed as a result.  Patients can suffer medical complications, may then require more expensive or aggressive treatments, permanent bodily injury, shorter lifespan, lower chances of survival, and possibly even death.  Additionally, the cost of compensating for a failure to diagnose or misdiagnosis can be very high, if he or she even has treatment options available.

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