Failure to Diagnose

Failure to diagnose a medical condition is common. The failure of a Medical Practitioner to identify and appropriately treat a medical condition either by not identifying a problem at all or by misidentity, can be negligent. The following are examples of reasons why a Medical Practitioner might fail to diagnose or misdiagnose a condition:-

  • Failure to order appropriate tests when indicated;
  • Failure to refer a patient for secondary care (hospital /Consultant etc);
  • Failure to perform regular screenings, particularly in high risk patients;
  • Failure to pay attention to and act on a patient's complaint appropriately;
  • Failure to recognise potential indications of a condition/problem;
  • Failure to conduct a physical examination properly.

Clinical negligence claims that arise as a result of a failure to diagnose include the following:-

  • Cancers, particularly of the skin, breast, colon, prostate, lung, ovaries, cervix, testicles and kidneys;
  • Meningitis;
  • Parasitic infections of the gastrointestinal tract such as cryptosporidium;
  • Diabetic reactions including ketoacidosis and diabetic coma;
  • Allergic reactions.

The failure to diagnose a condition early can impact the ultimate outcome of treatment or if treatment will even be an option, which makes early and accurate diagnosis of problems even more important. For example, an early detection of cancer i.e. at stage 1 can lead to the difference between a patient being cured or eventual death.

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