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Michael Gunzburg, P.C. New York City Personal Injury Lawyer
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New York City Misdiagnosis Lawyer

Diagnosis is a key step essential to properly treating any health condition. An inaccurate diagnosis can be serious or life-threatening; the patient may be harmed by the incorrect treatment while the untreated condition continues to worsen or spread. Misdiagnosis is the number one medical mistake doctors make in the United States and accounts for more than one-fourth of all medical malpractice claims in the country. One study that looked at medical errors over a 25-year period revealed that misdiagnosis was a factor in 44% of patient deaths and over a third of disabilities resulting from medical mistakes.

New York City medical malpractice attorney Michael Gunzburg takes on doctors in Manhattan, The Bronx, Brooklyn and Queens when their missing, delayed or inaccurate diagnosis makes a bad situation worse and causes damage to the patient’s health and wellbeing. If you think a diagnostic error might have caused you a harmful delay in treatment or the wrong treatment, call our New York City misdiagnosis lawyer Michael Gunzburg, P.C. to discuss your case over a no-cost, confidential consultation .

How Does Misdiagnosis Happen?

Doctors in hospitals, clinics and private practice might be overworked and understaffed, rushing to see and treat as many patients as they can in a single day. In these situations, doctors might be inclined to go with the most likely diagnosis rather than taking the time to go through the differential diagnosis process and order any testing that might be called for.

On the one hand, we read in the media about doctors practicing defensive medicine and ordering unnecessary tests to cover themselves from liability claims. At the same time, we hear about doctors under pressure from insurance companies not to order expensive tests unless absolutely necessary. Regardless, doctors should order or conduct all tests reasonably required to perform a differential diagnosis and arrive at a working diagnosis theory that can form the basis for a safe and effective course of treatment. When tests are done, doctors and hospitals can be liable for using medical equipment that is outdated or not maintained, if tests are conducted negligently, or if the results are misread or misinterpreted by the doctor, radiologist or lab technician.

Doctors can be liable for malpractice for a missed diagnosis, such as the failure to diagnose cancer, a missed diagnosis, such as diagnosing chest pain as indigestion when the patient has a serious heart condition, or a delayed diagnosis that allows cancer to spread or some other disease to progress. Diagnostic errors include the misdiagnosis, delay or failure to diagnose an obvious or known condition.

What Are Common Examples of Misdiagnosis?

Cancer is often misdiagnosed for different reasons. Three types of cancer commonly misdiagnosed are ovarian cancer, lung cancer, and colon cancer.

Ovarian Cancer – One study by a British nonprofit of women with ovarian cancer revealed an initial misdiagnosis in almost half of all cases. Over 40% of the survey participants confirmed they had to make three trips to the doctor before finally being referred for the appropriate test.

Lung Cancer – Doctors misdiagnose lung cancer when they don’t recognize a mass that appears on a chest x-ray, or when they don’t order further testing of masses they do detect.

Colon Cancer – Colonoscopies should not be performed unnecessarily as they are invasive procedures that carry some degree of risk, but when indicated, a colonoscopy is an excellent tool to diagnose colon cancer. With a modern endoscope or sigmoidoscope, doctors can image a polyp and collect a sample for biopsy at the same time. Doctors in some medical practices do nothing but perform colonoscopies all day. Unless these doctors follow best practices every time, they could miss a colon cancer that could have been successfully treated at an early stage, before it spreads or advances to a terminal stage.

What Kinds of Diagnoses Are Most Often Missed?

Other serious conditions besides cancer are frequently missed in time to prevent severe harm from occurring. Sepsis is one such condition. Sepsis starts with the body’s overactive immune response to an infection. Too many infection-fighting chemicals in the patient’s bloodstream starve organs of the oxygen and nutrients they need to survive. Organ failure is the likely result of untreated sepsis, and the condition can turn fatal as well. Doctors and hospitals should be on the alert for the possibility of post-operative patients or injury victims contracting sepsis. Sepsis needs to be diagnosed promptly and treated immediately to prevent permanent damage or death.

Other commonly missed diagnoses include:

  • Heart attack
  • Stroke
  • Deep vein thrombosis/pulmonary embolism
  • Arterial blockage
  • Pneumonia
  • Allergic reactions
  • Surgical mistakes

When Is a Doctor Liable for Misdiagnosis?

The first requirement is the existence of a doctor-patient relationship. This element of a malpractice claim is typically not hard to prove; a single visit or referral can be enough to establish a relationship. Next, it may be necessary to prove the doctor did not follow best practices regarding diagnosis. Diagnoses are based on the patient’s description of symptoms, the doctor’s physical examination of the patient, and the interpretation of any tests the doctor orders.

Some conditions are subtle and can be difficult to detect. A missed diagnosis is not necessarily negligent; the standard is whether a reasonable doctor would have diagnosed the condition, meaning a competent doctor with similar knowledge in the same field and community. Additionally, the patient must have been harmed by the missed, delayed or misdiagnosis.

Get Dedicated Legal Help After a Misdiagnosis Injury in New York City

If you believe you have been harmed by a misdiagnosis, missed diagnosis or delayed diagnosis of an obvious or known condition in Manhattan, The Bronx, Brooklyn, or Queens, call Michael Gunzburg, P.C. at 212-725-8500 for a free consultation.

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