When Does a Misdiagnosis Prove Malpractice in Maryland?

By Peter DePaolis

Doctors, nurses, and other healthcare practitioners are held to a very high standard in the way they practice medicine. However, that doesn’t mean that every mistake necessarily means malpractice. Medical professionals are not perfect and the law does not require them to be. Rather, malpractice exists when an error is simply unreasonable in light of the facts. One of the most common examples of medical malpractice happens when a doctor misdiagnoses an illness or disease.

If your condition was misdiagnosed, you may be able to pursue compensation for your injuries. The Maryland medical malpractice attorneys of Koonz McKenney Johnson & DePaolis LLP are ready to fight for you.

Common Misdiagnosed Illnesses and Conditions

Among the most commonly misdiagnosed illnesses and conditions are:

  • Heart attack, stroke, and other cardiovascular problems
  • Cancer (breast, cervical, prostate, and many others)
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Diabetes
  • Meningitis
  • Infections
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Depression

A misdiagnosis isn’t simply an error that can be remedied later. If a disease or condition is missed, it can worsen and cause severe health consequences. The resulting complications may not be reversible and could lead to other problems. The patient will incur a serious financial expense, and that’s to say nothing of the stress and emotional toll it can have. These are a few of the things a patient whose condition has been misdiagnosed can expect:

  • The disease or condition will worsen and cause further, possibly life-threatening complications
  • Unnecessary treatment for the wrong disease or condition may have side effects
  • Dangerous, invasive, or life-threatening surgeries and treatments may become necessary
  • Medical bills, lost time from work, and other financial consequences
  • Anxiety, depression, and additional mental and emotional effects associated with increased worry

Of course, for some patients, a misdiagnosis can prove fatal. Not only will the patient’s remaining quality of life be poor, but the family will have to watch and suffer as a loved one eventually passes away. In cases in which a misdiagnosis takes the life of a patient, the surviving family may be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit.

What causes a misdiagnosis?

Misdiagnoses can happen for many reasons, such as:

  • Confusing the symptoms of one disease for another. Doctors and nurses read and interpret signs and symptoms, but a serious disease can be mistaken for something more benign.
  • Failing to order tests. A reasonably prudent doctor will order the necessary tests to determine what condition a patient has. Adequate testing makes it more likely the disease will be effectively treated.
  • Misreading test results. Tests are only as good as the medical professional who reads them. Misinterpreting results, for example by overlooking something the test revealed, can mean that symptoms of a deadly disease get overlooked.
  • Inexperienced or poorly trained professionals. If a doctor, nurse, or other practitioner isn’t experienced with a disease, there’s a good chance the symptoms will be missed. When in doubt, the professional should refer the patient to someone else for a second opinion.
  • Overworked doctors and understaffed facilities. Medical professionals are overworked and often not supported with adequate staff. But failure to manage patients is no excuse for misdiagnosing a disease.
  • Not following up with patients. After diagnosing a condition, your doctor should follow up with you later to determine if that initial diagnosis was correct. Following up can catch a misdiagnosis before it becomes serious.

It’s not enough to understand what caused the misdiagnosis, however. To prove malpractice in Maryland, the error must be unreasonable (negligent) given the circumstances. That’s a difficult task, but one that our law firm is up to. If you or a loved one were misdiagnosed, we will investigate your case and advise you of your legal options. Give Koonz McKenney Johnson & DePaolis LLP a call today.

About the Author
Peter DePaolis joined the firm in 1980 and has since represented a large number of individuals involved in automobile collisions, truck accidents, bus crashes, defective products, and medical malpractice cases. A significant portion of Mr. DePaolis’ practice is devoted to working on behalf of people suffering from asbestosis, mesothelioma, and other asbestos-related cancers. He has led his firm’s fight against the asbestos industry and has recovered over $30 million in damages for asbestos victims and their families.