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When is a doctor at fault for a delayed diagnosis?

Medical doctors don't have the magical ability to diagnose every illness perfectly. Nevertheless, doctors do have a duty to their patients to follow standard medical procedure. In this respect, they need to ask specific questions, check certain areas of the body and perform specific tests depending on the answers to their questions. They should also keep investigating the ailment until they have arrived at a similar answer and diagnosis to that of any other reasonable doctor.

Although different doctors could have different opinions about certain circumstances, part of the process of diagnosing a patient involves a doctor listing other possibilities in order of descending probability. This allows the doctor to stay open to other ideas and not completely rule out all other explanations for the patient's symptoms.

With this being said, imagine that a doctor fails to diagnose a patient with cancer, and the cancer progresses to the point that it is untreatable. If the doctor could have diagnosed the condition earlier, with early treatment the patient could have survived the illness. Now, the patient's case is terminal.

Is the doctor at fault for failing to diagnose the condition early enough to treat it? This depends on whether the doctor followed standard medical procedure and whether a similarly positioned and "reasonable" doctor would have been able to diagnose the patient given the facts and information available.

If you suspect that you or your family member has suffered serious injuries or worsened disease conditions as a result of a failed or delayed diagnosis, you might want to investigate the matter to determine if you can pursue a claim for financial damages relating to medical malpractice.

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