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Misdiagnosis and when it becomes medical malpractice

Figures report about 12 million U.S. residents are misdiagnosed annually, or one in 20 adults. Misdiagnosis is a form of medical malpractice that occurs when the doctor falls below a standard of care. While patients in Illinois or Colorado can seek damages, the case must meet certain criteria.

Overview of misdiagnosis

Figures from AARP show about 20% of patients who got second opinions had been misdiagnosed the first time. Misdiagnosis means the doctor discovered a condition but failed to diagnose it properly, which can cause harm. Doctors commonly use differential diagnosis to rule out similar conditions based on symptoms, asking questions, patient observations, and various tests.

Conditions with many similar symptoms, such as heart attacks and panic attacks, are a main cause of misdiagnosis. It is dangerous because by the time the real condition has been discovered, treatment may not be effective.

When it is malpractice

Medical malpractice cases commonly do not involve malicious intent to harm, but doctors are still responsible for errors. One element the patient must prove is negligence, which means the doctor missed something a reasonable doctor would not have. Some common types of negligence include not referring the patient to a specialist, misreading tests, or missing a test.

The doctor must have an established relationship with the patient, meaning they agreed to treat the patient. They owed the patient a duty of care, but they breached the duty, causing the patient to suffer actual damages.

For example, a patient commonly has a case if they undergo unneeded treatment, such as radiation. A patient who overhears a doctor's advice, has an untreatable condition, or dislikes an outcome likely doesn't have a case.

Medical malpractice cases are complex, and not every error is malpractice,l so it needs a legal evaluation. However, they only have so much time to file a claim against responsible doctors.

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