In the era of modern medicine, breakthroughs are being made every day that allow for more effective treatments of many serious ailments. There are better treatments for cancer that greatly improve survival rates and new drugs that can minimize the effects of a heart attack or stroke. Often, the key to improving your likelihood of recovering from a serious medical condition is early intervention.
When the signs of cancer, stroke, heart disease, diabetes, or a myriad of other medical conditions are caught early, there is much that physicians can do to treat or cure the disease. Early intervention through diet and exercise can reduce the risk of having a heart attack or stroke, or the risk of developing complications from diabetes. When cancer is caught early before it spreads, surgery to remove the tumor may be sufficient — and mean you don’t have to suffer through chemotherapy or radiation treatments and their side effects.
With all of the options available to improve the quality of life and potential for recovery for people with serious medical conditions, it’s frustrating when a doctor, nurse, or other health provider initially misses the signs and symptoms. A delayed diagnosis can have tragic consequences and result in having to undergo painful treatments or major surgery to treat the condition. In some instances, a delayed diagnosis may mean that the condition becomes too advanced to effectively treat. Often, these are consequences for the patient that could have been avoided if the diagnosis hadn’t been delayed.
If you received a delayed diagnosis that resulted in your having to undergo procedures or treatments or other consequences that were preventable, you may be the victim of medical negligence and may have a claim for medical malpractice. Through a malpractice claim, you may be able to recover the cost of treatments and procedures you otherwise wouldn’t have had to undergo, as well as compensation for lost income, pain and suffering, disability and disfigurement, and loss of normal life.
Common Reasons for Delayed Diagnosis
When we suspect that something is wrong inside our bodies, we trust doctors, nurses, and other health professionals to have the knowledge and experience to recognize our symptoms, order tests or lab work, and put all of the pieces together to form the correct diagnosis. Unfortunately for patients, there are a number of ways that process can go wrong through health providers’ negligence. Among the common reasons for a delayed diagnosis are:
- Misreading X-Rays, Test Results or Medical Charts
- Lost Paperwork
- Medical Chart Errors
- Failure to Order the Right Tests
- Failure to Refer to an Appropriate Specialist
Consequences of Delayed Diagnosis
Sometimes a delayed diagnosis won’t do much harm, and you just end up getting the same treatment you would have gotten if your medical condition had been diagnosed earlier. But sometimes the consequences of a delayed diagnosis can be very serious when your medical condition is one that is progressive and gets worse with time.
For example, cancer may start as one tumor in a specific location, but over time tumors can spread and when they spread into certain parts of your body the cancer can be fatal. Cancers are assigned stages based on how advanced and widespread the abnormal cancer cells are. With modern treatments, many forms of cancer have high rates of survival when caught in those early stages. But when diagnosis is delayed through the a medical provider’s negligence, the cancer can progress and require more aggressive and invasive treatments. If diagnosis is delayed too long, treatment options may vanish and the eventual diagnosis may be terminal.
Other conditions may require more extensive, invasive, and expensive treatments if allowed to progress because of a delayed diagnosis. A heart condition left undiagnosed when early intervention could have helped may lead to the need for bypass surgery, which has a lengthy recovery time and can be life-altering for patients. A delayed diabetes diagnosis could mean the patient experiences complications such as blindness, nerve damage, or the need for lower limb amputation as prolonged increases in blood glucose damage the body. A delay in diagnosing stroke could mean brain damage or death.
How a Lawyer Can Help
When a medical provider’s negligence causes you harm, an experienced medical malpractice lawyer can help you through the process of pursuing a malpractice claim. A lawyer can review the facts of your situation and discuss with you what options might exist for compensation, and what you can expect from the process.
Even if you don’t end up filing a lawsuit, a medical malpractice lawyer can conduct an investigation into what happened to you and gather the evidence to support your claim, including obtaining medical records and expert witnesses. Your lawyer also can negotiate with the insurance company for the doctor or hospital to get you a fair settlement. If a lawsuit becomes necessary, your lawyer can zealously argue your case in court to get you the compensation you deserve.