Medical Negligence Claims: Misdiagnosis or Delayed Diagnosis 

In our recent blog post on medical negligence claims, we discussed the most common types of claims and the process of making a medical or dental negligence claim. In this post, you might have come across the terms ‘delayed diagnosis’ and ‘misdiagnosis’ which are two unique situations that we will explore in further detail below. 

Medical negligence can be defined as any action by medical staff or members of hospital / clinical staff which fall below an acceptable standard of care and which directly causes injury or disease or allows the health of a person to deteriorate as a result. (Source) Providing a correct, and timely diagnosis is fundamental in ensuring the best possible outcome for a patient. 

What is a misdiagnosis?

A misdiagnosis is considered a form of medical negligence, as it is a dereliction of a practitioner’s duty of care to their patients. This happens when a patient’s condition or symptoms are wrongly identified as another issue. This may lead to the patient receiving incorrect treatment which does nothing to alleviate their actual condition, possibly causing further medical complications and even more harm. 

Some instances of a misdiagnosis include the misinterpretation of test results,  miscommunication with a patient, the failure to identify a root cause, or a related (or unrelated) issue, and false positives or false negatives. Misdiagnosis can also occur during routine screening – some recent examples of misdiagnosis and medical negligence in these cases arise from the scandals associated with national screening programmes such as Cervical Check. 

A misdiagnosis should not be confused with a missed diagnosis, which is where a patient’s condition is not diagnosed – i.e. the failure to identify elements of an illness or disease based on your presenting symptoms, and associated test results. 

What is a delayed diagnosis?

A delayed diagnosis is different from a misdiagnosis: in this instance a patient’s condition is correctly diagnosed, however the timeframe in which this is completed is not as prompt as it should have been, had the medical professional in charge of the case acted efficiently.

This circumstance may be where a patient seeks medical help or advice for symptoms that they are experiencing, but the condition that is causing these symptoms is not diagnosed within a reasonable amount of time. It is the medical professionals’ responsibility to complete the necessary medical tasks (differential diagnosis) to determine whether the patient is in need of further medical attention. A delayed diagnosis might happen when symptoms are dismissed or overlooked, where lab work may be lost or the correct testing or consultation is not sought, or the failure by a medical professional to properly evaluate a patient that has presented to them. This could be a patient presenting to their GP with symptoms that are not fully investigated if at all, or a patient referring to an accident and emergency or primary care centre with specific symptoms, and the patient is not admitted or discharged early without the proper diagnostics. 

Making a medical negligence claim

To bring a claim for medical negligence due to a delayed diagnosis, you will need to provide evidence that the standard of care you received fell below that of a competent medical professional, and the negligence caused damage or injury. It’s important to note that there is a time limit of two years from the date of the negligent event during which you can bring your medical negligence claim. 

If you believe that a condition you have been diagnosed with, could have been identified at an earlier stage, thereby resulting in harm to you, you may be eligible to make a claim. Our dedicated team of specialist Medical Negligence Solicitors at Martin A. Harvey & Co. will assist and guide you through your medical negligence* claim. We are experienced in dealing with all types of delayed or misdiagnoses, and medical negligence* cases. 

If you would like assistance regarding your medical negligence* claim, please contact our team at Martin A. Harvey & Co. Solicitors, and we would be happy to assist you in any way that we can. Freephone 1800 – 396 396 or fill out our contact form here.

*In contentious business, a solicitor may not calculate fees or other charges as a percentage or proportion of any award or settlement.