Failure to Diagnose a Terminal Illness
Written by AskTheLawyers.com™ on behalf of Merrida Coxwell with Coxwell & Associates.
There are many kinds of medical malpractice, one of which can have particularly dire consequences: failure to diagnose. Medical malpractice occurs when a healthcare professional such as a doctor, nurse, surgeon, or medical facility, such as a clinic, hospital, or emergency room, does not exercise a proper standard of care, which results in the serious injury or death of a patient. When a medical professional fails to diagnose any illness or health condition, they may be liable for resulting damages such as medical bills or lost wages.
However, when a medical professional fails to diagnose a terminal illness, the damages may differ. In addition to the standard damages compensated in other medical malpractice cases, failure to diagnose a terminal illness case may also include compensation for loss of care and companionship, funeral expenses, and burial costs. An accurate and timely diagnosis of a terminal illness can make all the difference in how long a person has left with their family and friends. If a doctor failed to or unnecessarily delayed the diagnosis of a terminal illness for yourself or a loved one, each out to a medical malpractice attorney to learn more about your options for recovery.
Terminal illnesses are time-sensitive, as are their treatments.
This is why it is particularly important to have an attentive medical team on your side if you are battling a terminal illness. However, if your condition is not recognized as terminal until too late in the treatment process, there may not be much a doctor can do to help. For example, cancer is a common illness which may or may not be terminal, but is often missed in diagnoses until later in the treatment. When this occurs, the consequences can be tragic. When caught early, many cancers are highly treatable, potentially improving a patient’s quality and length of life. When a cancer diagnosis is not made until the cancer has worsened, the patient’s options become far more limited.
A variety of parties may be considered liable in a case involving failure to diagnose terminal illness.
Due to the myriad of medical professionals involved in prescribing, performing, and interpreting test results, it is not uncommon for miscommunication to happen somewhere along the line. In fact, miscommunication between medical professionals is thought to be the primary cause of medical malpractice. Liability in a medical malpractice case will fall with the professional considered to be primarily responsible for the failure to diagnose. For example, if a doctor orders a biopsy or other diagnostic test, but the technician interprets it incorrectly, the technician would be considered liable. This is where it can be particularly difficult to discover liability without the help of a medical malpractice attorney. There are so many parties involved in just one patient’s medical treatment and history that it often takes an expert in the field to know where to look for and how to identify liability for failing to diagnose a terminal illness.
In another example, if a doctor fails to order a test which could have revealed the terminal nature of the illness, and another doctor with the same training and in the same situation would have done so, the doctor who failed to order the tests would be considered liable. Medical malpractice cases become even more complicated if it is discovered that a medical professional should not have been involved in the situation to begin with. If a hospital or treatment center failed to check the qualifications of their staff before hiring, the hospital or treatment center could also be considered liable.
Failure to diagnose a terminal illness affects families.
Individual patients are not the only ones who suffer as a result of failure to diagnose a terminal illness. Losing a loved one to a terminal illness, especially when they might have lived longer or under less pain with proper, timely treatment, can be extremely painful. Family members of a person who died due to a failure to diagnose a terminal illness may be eligible to receive compensation for the wrongful death of their loved one, especially if the deceased was a primary earner for the family.
To learn more about failure to diagnose a terminal illness, or to file a claim, reach out to a medical malpractice attorney.