Missed diagnosis and delayed diagnosis are two of the most common (and often the most damaging) forms of medical malpractice. Reports suggest that as many as 40% of medical malpractice cases involve a missed or a delay in diagnosis.
A missed diagnosis or a delay in diagnosis often results from testing errors, failing to order proper tests, improper analysis, improper communication of test results, or inaccurate assessment of symptoms. These common medical errors occur most often when test results or imaging are not read properly or adverse results are not followed-up on.
Delayed diagnosis is the most common diagnostic error made by medical professionals. It is hard to underestimate the potential consequences of these mistakes. Failure to receive timely treatment can be the difference between life and death, particularly when a condition like cancer is involved. It goes without saying that with cancer, time is of the essence. Often patients affected by a delayed diagnosis are not aware of the situation. Since the doctor may eventually discover the problem, some patients may be under the mistaken assumption the doctor cannot be legally responsible for the delayed diagnosis that caused harm. In reality, the law recognizes that delays in diagnosis can be just as damaging as the failure to diagnose.
Sarah, age 21, visits her primary care provider for an annual physical and Pap smear. The results are normal. The next year, Sarah returns for an annual physical and Pap smear. The test is abnormal because glandular cells are found, a dangerous pre-cancer of the cervix (lower narrow part of the uterus). The nurse midwife and facility fail to notify Sarah of the abnormal result and do not start medical treatment. To add insult to injury, the midwife sees Sarah two more times that year and withholds mention of the abnormal result.
With no treatment, the abnormal cells on Sarah’s cervix multiply, grow to be cancer, and invade nearby tissues. The next Pap smear a year later finds the glandular cell have become cervical cancer. It has also spread because of the lengthy delay, such that no medical treatment can salvage Sarah’s reproductive system. Cancer surgeons remove her cervix and uterus to save her life, and the healthcare errors deprive Sarah of every child she could ever have.
In all potential legal actions stemming from delayed or missed diagnosis, the key factor is proving a doctor’s negligence. In terms of missed or delayed diagnosis, a patient would have to prove that a doctor in a similar specialty, under similar circumstances, would not have missed the diagnosis. In other words, the patient must show that a “reasonable doctor” would have made the diagnosis sooner, and that an earlier diagnosis would have prevented harm.
A crucial issue in all of medical malpractice cases is proving the harm that was caused by the malpractice. Specifically, that the missed or delayed diagnosis caused the patient harm above and beyond the inevitable harm from the underlying medical condition. If your loved one recently suffered injury or death resulting from a missed or delayed diagnosis, you must act quickly. Michigan law does a poor job protecting people injured by medical professionals and any delay in seeking legal help can mean losing your rights forever. Contact the experienced team at Buchanan Firm if you or a loved one was injured as a result of a missed or delayed diagnosis in Muskegon, Michigan. We are experienced in the Muskegon court system and are not afraid to take medical providers to trial. We have successfully pursued many cases of missed or delayed diagnosis cases against Mercy Health in Muskegon.
 Name changed to protect the privacy of the former client.