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Can Misdiagnosis Create a Medical Malpractice Claim in Pennsylvania?

Pittsburgh PA Failure to do Cancer Screening LawyerAccording to research conducted by the Mayo Clinic in 2017, more than 20 percent of patients who sought a second opinion regarding a diagnosis at the Clinic had been misdiagnosed – meaning that the condition they were told they had was incorrect. That same research found that only 12 percent of those seeking a second opinion had been correctly diagnosed. The remaining individuals had received diagnoses that were at least partly in line with the Clinic’s determination.

When Can Misdiagnosis Be Used to Claim Medical Malpractice in Pittsburgh, PA?

This research makes it clear that many of the individuals treated in this country either receive an incorrect diagnosis, or that only part of what they are told about their diagnosis is correct. That creates a large group of people that could read this post and think that they should be entitled to compensation. Many times, the people that are misdiagnosed suffer, whether from increased or prolonged pain or symptoms because of incorrect or insufficient treatment. Fortunately, however, many of these people also recover fully and are not permanently damaged by the mistake. For those that are permanently damaged, the question then becomes whether the misdiagnosis rises to the level of medical malpractice.

Making a Successful Medical Malpractice Claim in Cranberry Township, PA

The legal theory on which medical malpractice is based is known as negligence. Negligence is the basis for many personal injury claims, and requires showing that the individual claimed to have caused harm:

  • Owed a “duty of care” to the person injured
  • Breached that duty of care with their actions
  • The actions were the actual and proximate cause of the injuries claimed
  • The person suffered compensable injuries because of the actions

In cases involving doctors and patients, the duty of care is rarely in question: patients look to doctors for guidance, advice and treatment, creating a duty for those doctors to act with reasonable care. Where things get challenging are in the remaining elements as it relates to a misdiagnosis and its impact on the individual.

Was the Misdiagnosis Clearly Below the Expected Standard of Care?

In order to prove that the doctor breached his or her duty in misdiagnosing the patient, the patient must prove that the doctor did not, in reaching his or her diagnosis, act as other similarly-situated doctors would have. If a doctor performs all of the normally recommended tests, reviews the results, and reaches the wrong diagnosis, it may be difficult to prove that he or she breached the duty of care unless the doctor misinterpreted the information. If, however, the doctor failed to perform the normally recommended tests and rendered a diagnosis based inadequate information, it may be possible to prove the doctor breached the standard of care.

If the Standard of Care Was Breached, Can You Prove It Was the Cause?

Pennsylvania law requires anyone making a medical malpractice claim to show that not only did the misdiagnosis cause the harm claimed, but that the misdiagnosis was a factor in the harm caused. Though similar, the concepts are different. It is easy to show a connection between two events, but it is more challenging to show that the first event played a factor in causing the harm. For example, if someone is initially diagnosed as cancer free, yet later learns that they have untreatable lung cancer that causes death, it is easy to say the cancer misdiagnosis caused the cancer to go untreated and led to death. However, if the cancer was untreatable at the time of the misdiagnosis, it is much more difficult to successfully argue that the person’s death was the fault of the doctor who missed diagnosing it earlier in time: even if it had been correctly diagnosed, it was still untreatable, so the patient’s outcome (death) would still be the same regardless.

Claiming Misdiagnosis as the Basis for Medical Malpractice in Pennsylvania Requires Experience

As can be seen, medical malpractice claims are always difficult, and ones based upon a misdiagnosis simply increase the challenge. However, they are not impossible, and if you believe you have been harmed by a misdiagnosis, you need to talk to an experienced medical malpractice lawyer as soon as possible for guidance on how to proceed. The Pittsburgh medical malpractice attorneys at Matzus Law are prepared to assist you with your legal claim. We represent victims of negligent surgeons, doctors, nurses, and pharmacists throughout Pennsylvania, including Pittsburgh, Butler, Cranberry Township, Greensburg, and Washington. Contact us today at (412) 206-5300 or email us to schedule a consultation. Our main office is located at 310 Grant Street, Suite 3210, Pittsburgh, PA 15219.

The articles on this blog are for informative purposes only and are no substitute for legal advice or an attorney-client relationship. If you are seeking legal advice, please contact our law firm directly.