Better Late Than Never Does Not Apply in Medical Diagnoses


There are those who believe that doctors are infallible and all-knowing, however, they are still human and can make mistakes. Diagnosing a medical condition takes years of study and training, and even then it’s not always correct. In some cases, a medical condition is not immediately recognized and therefore not treated and these could have serious health consequences. This is referred to as delayed diagnosis, and may warrant the attention of a personal injury lawyer if it can be proved that there was insufficient care provided.

When a patient is asymptomatic (no symptoms presented) or presents vague symptoms that could indicate any number of medical conditions, it is hard to make a timely and accurate diagnosis. However, a physician has the responsibility of providing accepted standards of care which includes a thorough physical examination, interview and diagnostic tests to determine the nature of the condition. If these standards are met, then no negligence can be conferred to the doctor. Otherwise, a personal injury case may be filed against the doctor and other medical personnel involved.

Effects of Delayed Diagnosis

This is because a delayed diagnosis of a serious disease or medical condition can lead to the progress of the condition that will result in injury, illness, or even death. For example, a patient complains of recurring debilitating headaches. The doctor sends the patient home with a couple of aspirins and a pat on the head without ordering the standard tests to trace the nature of the headaches. Much later it turns out the patient has a brain tumor that may have been managed in the earlier stages, but the delay was enough to render it untreatable. In that case, the doctor may be held liable for medical malpractice, and a lawyer may be necessary.

Another reason delayed diagnosis can lead to death is when an emergency medical condition remains undetected, such as internal bleeding. Immediate treatment would be able to check the progress of the bleed, but without the proper diagnosis, a patient can die without receiving the proper care that could have been life-saving.

Diseases and medical conditions that are most commonly diagnosed late, if at all, include:

  • Cancers and tumors
  • Myocardial infarction
  • Strokes
  • Internal bleeding

The effects of delayed treatment for late-diagnosed medical conditions or diseases include:

  • brain damage
  • organ failure
  • hemorrhage,
  • permanent disabilities
  • paralysis
  • infection
  • death

A medical establishment may also be liable for damages if their refusal to admit a patient for whatever reason in an emergency situation results in death or serious injury. This is referred to as failure to treat, and contravenes several state and federal laws. If a hospital or clinic discharges a patient too soon in the sense that his or her condition is not yet stable, it can also be considered medical malpractice.

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