What is a medical misdiagnosis and what are your options if it happens to you? Julie Hatton, Partner and Clinical Negligence and Personal Injury specialist at Coodes Solicitors, explains that it is not as straightforward a question as it might first seem.
If you are unwell, a correct medical diagnosis is the first step to getting treatment. Unfortunately, conditions are sometimes incorrectly diagnosed or missed altogether, occasionally with catastrophic effects.
At Coodes, our clinical negligence team supports many people whose lives have been changed by misdiagnosis to claim compensation. These include instances where cancers or diabetes have been missed or misdiagnosed, as well as cases involving developmental hip dysplasia in babies or young children being missed. The resulting delays in treatment have caused serious issues for the individuals and their families, and in some cases resulted in reduced lifespan or avoidable deaths.
The definition of a misdiagnosis is not as straightforward as you might assume. There are, in fact, a number of different scenarios that are classed as a medical misdiagnosis.
When a patient is given a clean bill of health by their GP or another healthcare provider, but later discovers they have a condition that was missed, this is known as a ‘total misdiagnosis.’ Of course for conditions such as meningitis or sepsis, which develop very quickly, a misdiagnosis can be fatal.
When a GP has identified an issue, the next step is often for the patient to be seen by a specialist. Failing to refer the patient, perhaps because they have not appreciated the extent or nature of the condition, delays diagnosis and treatment.
In a rushed appointment, a healthcare professional may not carry out important checks that could lead to a diagnosis. Failing to properly examine the patient can mean that important signs and symptoms are missed and therefore not treated.
We see a number of clients who have suffered delays to diagnosis and treatment because the results of important medical tests were misinterpreted. This can include, for example, blood tests being misread or important symptoms being missed from an X-Ray. Sadly, we also support families who have lost a loved one as a result of medical test results being misinterpreted.
We also support clients who were given a particular diagnosis, only to later discover they had a different condition. In some instances, this means delays to urgent treatment. In others, it can mean the individual is given unnecessary treatment, with serious side effects and life-changing consequences.
If you do not feel confident about the diagnosis you or a member of your family has been given, you are entitled to get a second opinion. You may want to ask to see another GP at your usual surgery, or you may wish to make an appointment with a different specialist in a hospital.
Diagnosing a medical condition is often a complex process and receiving a misdiagnosis does not automatically mean the healthcare provider was negligent. Every case is different, so when we investigate a potential claim for a client we look closely at details such as what they presented with at appointments, their medical records and results from tests. We are looking for signs and symptoms that should have been picked up, but were missed.