Delayed Diagnosis Cases
Many medical malpractice cases arise out of what is called a “delayed diagnosis.” When a doctor or other medical provider fails to make a correct diagnosis, or there is a delay in making the right diagnosis, a patient may have a claim for medical malpractice. Delays in diagnosis can result in irreversible harm, particularly when an incorrect treatment is provided, or where the delayed treatment comes too late to make a difference in the patient’s medical outcome.
Delays in diagnosis cases often lead to what is known as a “loss of chance.” In Massachusetts, loss of chance allows a patient to recover damages for the reduction of a patient’s chances in achieving a more favorable medical outcome or recovery. In a medical malpractice case, the loss of chance doctrine allows a person with a 50 percent chance of survival, or less, to file a lawsuit for damages resulting from any negligence of the doctor that caused the patient’s reduced chance of survival.Proving a Medical Malpractice Case Based on Loss of Chance or Delayed Diagnosis
It is important to note that a doctor’s mistake in making a diagnosis does not necessarily mean that the patient has enough to successfully bring a medical malpractice lawsuit. To successfully bring a medical malpractice claim, a party must generally show three things:
That a doctor-patient relationship existed. This is usually a straight forward question and is the easiest to answer.
That the doctor was negligent. In the context of a medical malpractice case, this question focuses on whether or not the doctor deviated from the “accepted standards of care” for the specific medical specialty in question.
The doctor’s negligence (i.e., deviation from the standard of care) caused the patient to suffer harm. In cases where there could be more than one potential cause of the harm, the patient must show that the doctor’s negligence was a ”substantial contributing factor” in bringing about the harm.
Some examples of situations that could give rise to a claim for delayed diagnosis or loss of chance include the following:
- Failure to administer antibiotics to prevent spread of infection
- Failure to correctly interpret diagnostic testing results (i.e., X-rays, blood work, CT Scans, PET scans, etc…)
- Failure to timely order medical testing
- Failure or delay in transferring a patient
- Delay in performing surgery
Proving causation almost always requires the opinion of a medical expert who practices in the same medical specialty as the treating doctor. The expert’s opinion must be based on a “reasonable degree of medical certainty” as opposed to being based on speculation or possibilities.
As an example, for a person claiming that a delay in diagnosis caused them harm, the patient would need to show that because of the failure to timely diagnose or treat the patient, the patient either had to undergo more severe treatment (i.e., chemotherapy), or that the patient suffered a worse outcome (i.e., reduced chance of recovery or even death) as a result.
Medical malpractice cases can be very complex and require knowledge of the nuances and challenges that face a plaintiff when bring a medical malpractice lawsuit.
The Massachusetts medical malpractice office of Curran & Desharnais, specializes in helping patients who have been harmed as a result of medical malpractice including, delays in diagnosis, incorrect or missed diagnosis, surgical errors, anesthesia malpractice, nursing errors, and more. We make sure every client is kept informed and is aware of the progress of their case. We are always available to speak by phone or email and welcome questions about the strategy or direction of your case.
If you or a loved one have been injured or harmed as a result of a medical error or delay in diagnosis in Massachusetts , call the medical malpractice lawyers at Curran & Desharanis, P.C. at 781-277-3262 to discuss your case and to set up a free consultation.