Some incidents of medical malpractice are easy to understand. For instance, if a surgeon carelessly leaves a surgical instrument inside a patient’s body, a court is going to quickly grasp the idea that this surgeon should be held liable for the resulting damages.
In this example, it may also be relatively simple to calculate the damages. The patient will require a second surgery to remove the instrument. The surgeon should be held liable — at the least — for all the medical expenses associated with this second surgery, as well as the pain and other noneconomic damages the patient suffered as a result.
Other types of medical malpractice are more difficult to understand. Some of the trickiest cases involve misdiagnosis.
Is misdiagnosis always malpractice?
There’s an old joke about doctors playing God, but doctors are just human beings, and they can’t be expected to know everything. They can’t get every diagnosis correct. However, they are expected to provide medical care that is up to the standards of their profession. If they fail to do so, and injure their patient as a result, they can be held liable for the patient’s damages.
With this in mind, you can see that a faulty diagnosis isn’t necessarily malpractice. However, if the misdiagnosis was the result in a lapse in professional standards, it might be.
Damages can also be difficult to understand in a misdiagnosis case.
For example, imagine a doctor is treating a patient for intestinal problems but fails to detect a cancer growing inside the patient. As a result of this misdiagnosis, the cancer continues to grow. A year goes by, and now the cancer is so serious that the patient needs extensive surgery and other treatments.
In this scenario, the patient may claim that the failure to diagnoses their condition amounted to medical malpractice. However, they can’t hold the doctor liable for all the damages they suffered as a result of the cancer. It’s not the doctor’s fault that the patient has cancer. The patient can only hold the doctor liable for the damages they suffered as a result of the misdiagnosis.
The law refers to this concept by using the term “worsened condition.” The patient can hold the doctor liable to the extent that their conditioned was worsened by the misdiagnosis.
Proving malpractice and calculating damages is difficult in misdiagnois cases. Experienced attorneys can help the injured understand their options.