Injured People

My doctor misdiagnosed my condition. Can I claim for medical negligence?

Surgery after a workplace injury

Medical negligence is a highly complex area of the law and the misdiagnosis of your illness or condition does not automatically constitute negligence. For this reason it is recommended that you seek legal advice if you are concerned about the medical treatment or misdiagnosis that you, or someone close to you, have received.

In short, to prove a claim of medial negligence for misdiagnosis you need to show that:

  1. The doctor or other medical professional’s conduct would not be considered reasonable by another medical professional in the same industry; and
  2. That you have suffered some harm or injury as a direct result of that negligent conduct; and
  3. That your claim is not ‘out of time’ i.e. your claim has not expired. There are time limits that apply on your right to make a claim, and it is important you seek legal advice on this as early as possible.

Examples of how a misdiagnosis can arise include:

  1. The medical health professional incorrectly reads or interprets your test results and advises you that you are fine, when you are not.

Example: Your doctor misreads your blood test results which show that you have an aggressive infection.

  1. The medical health professional fails to treat you in accordance with the required procedures and protocols and this results in a worsening of your condition due to substandard or incorrect treatment.

Example: You suffer from an injury which results in internal bleeding. Your doctor administers to you the wrong level of anticoagulants (blood-thinning medication) and as a result your blood starts to pool and you suffer cardiac arrest. *This is a true example

  1. Your symptoms are misinterpreted and you are diagnosed with the wrong condition (this also commonly then leads to you receiving the wrong treatment).

Example: You report to your doctor severe pain in your right leg and your doctor tells you that you have suffered bruising and tells you to ice the area and take panadol for pain relief, when in fact you have bone cancer in your right leg and should have been referred for radiological scanning. *This is a true example. 

  1. You are incorrectly diagnosed with a more serious condition than what you have. Again, this can lead to you receiving the wrong treatment.

Example: Your doctor misreads your blood test results and incorrectly diagnoses you with cancer and starts chemotherapy treatment, when in fact you do not have cancer.

Delayed diagnosis is slightly different to misdiagnosis and involves an unacceptable delay but the correct diagnosis. Delayed diagnosis may still constitute medical negligence. Below is an example of when delayed diagnosis could result in a medical negligence claim:

  1. Ms Smith notices a lump in her breast which she is concerned about.
  2. Ms Smith goes to see her GP and reports her symptoms.
  3. Ms Smith is referred by her GP for a mammogram.
  4. Ms Smith has her mammogram and then returns to see her GP for the results.
  5. Ms Smith’s GP incorrectly reads the mammogram findings and tells Ms Smith that she is cancer-free and the lump is most likely a cyst.
  6. Six months passes and Ms Smith returns to her GP because she is now experiences pain and a bloody discharge from her breast nipple.
  7. Ms Smith’s GP re-reads Ms Smith’s mammogram report and realizes he has misread those earlier findings and that Ms Smith does in fact have breast cancer.
  8. Ms Smith’s GP sends her for another mammogram which shows the cancer has grown from 2cm to 6cm over the last 6 months.
  9. Ms Smith now requires a mastectomy which she could have avoided if her cancer had been detected 6 months earlier.

Patients who have been incorrectly diagnosed or experienced a delay in their diagnosis often suffer physical, emotional and financial losses. In such sad circumstances it is vital you know your legal rights and entitlements. Tindall Gask Bentley Lawyers are specialists in medical negligence claims. Call us today to book a free first interview or leave your details here and our team will be in touch soon.