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Can I Sue for Misdiagnosis?


Misdiagnosis is a preventable medical error whereby a doctor inaccurately diagnosis a disease, injury, syndrome or infection which may affect a patient adversely as it may lead to incorrect treatment, no treatment or delayed treatment. Medical misdiagnosis has three major categories which are as follows:

False Positive: there is a misdiagnosis that the disease is not present

False Negative: failure to diagnosis the disease that is present

Equivocal results: inconclusive interpretation without a definite diagnosis

According to the American Journal of Medicine 15 per cent of all medical case in developed countries are misdiagnosed. The National Center for Policy Analysis further states fatal diagnostic errors in U.S. intensive care units equal the number of breast cancer deaths each year — 40,500. Misdiagnosis has become a cause for concern in the medical and legal field because it has fatal consequences.

Can I Sue my doctor for Misdiagnosis?

A person who has been the victim of a wrong diagnosis can sue for damages under the tort of negligence. A medical practitioner will not always be liable for all misdiagnosis. For a doctor to be liable for the loss suffered the patient has to prove the following:

  • The was a doctor-patient relationship for the patient to rely on the diagnosis given by the doctor
  • The doctor was negligent because he/she fell below the standard of a skilful and competent practitioner.
  • The negligent acts of the doctor cased the injury.

The second element is the most difficult to prove. A skilful and competent doctor can make medical errors as such it is important to look at the actions of the doctor in arriving at a medical conclusion regarding a patient’s health. If it can be proven the doctor acted with reasonable skill, competence and did his due diligence in arriving at a conclusion then he/she will not be liable for any loss or suffering as a result of the misdiagnosis. But where it is shown that the doctor fell below the standards of a reasonable competent practitioner as he failed to take the necessary step arrive at a proper diagnosis and his acts resulted in the damage then a party will be successful.

Can I sue the hospital for Misdiagnosis?

Suing a hospital for misdiagnosis is dependent on whether the doctor is an employee of the hospital. A hospital is liable for all damage committed by their employees once the employee is performing his/her duties. The principle of employer’s liability states that any act or omission by the employee in the course of their employment which causes loss, damage or suffering can be attributed to the employer. Therefore, once the doctor was an employee of the hospital then all his/her acts or omissions are attributed to the hospital. However, if the doctor was an independent contractor of the hospital that is where the hospital does not have any control in how the doctor carries out his functions but the doctor’s only responsibility is that he ought to perform the duties under his contract at the standard required; then the hospital is not liable. Where the doctor sets his own fees and work hours then he is not an employee.

Can I sue for medical Misdiagnosis?

Doctor and hospitals are liable to any patient where there is medical misdiagnosis caused by the negligence of the doctor. Most malpractice lawsuits in the US are as a result of medical misdiagnosis due to the doctor failing below the required standard as he was negligent. Misdiagnosis is more common in outpatient facilities as the government and private sector efforts have focused on inpatient safety. A person suing for misdiagnosis requires opinion from other doctors about the standard procedure which a doctor failed to do before diagnosing a patient. A considerable sum is generally recoverable because of the lasting effects misdiagnosis might have on the patient.

No one is infallible however, where a person has a life his/her hands it is expected that they will do all that is require according to the standards expected to have little or no errors. It is on that basis that a person can sue for misdiagnosis because the medical practitioner showed some level of incompetence which is unacceptable. A person can sue the doctor and the hospital if the doctor is an employee of the hospital.

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