Usually, we trust doctors to be able to get to the bottom of things when we have unexplained symptoms, and most of the time things go right with medical diagnoses within the boundaries of what is possible with current medical science. However, when a diagnosis is missed, is incorrect, or is a false positive for a serious condition, the results can be devastating.
Medical negligence solicitors work to ensure that when someone is subject to unnecessary treatment, has an illness that should have been picked up earlier in advance before it is properly diagnosed, or even dies as a result of diagnosis error, compensation is paid out where it is due. However, there are certain criteria that have to be met for it to be deemed medical malpractice or negligence when a diagnosis goes wrong.
Here, we look at under what circumstances people can, and cannot, make a successful medical negligence claim when they have been subject to an error in diagnosis.
The Error Has to Lead to Harm to the Patient
For any kind of medical negligence UK case, including those relating to diagnoses, to be successful, the patient must have come to harm as a result of the alleged negligence. This is not to say that negligent practices do not occur where fortunately nobody is harmed as a result, nor that these need to be flagged so that improvements can be made, however in order for someone to be entitled to compensation as a result of medical negligence, they have to have something to be compensated for.
This means that most minor conditions will not be applicable – if your eczema is misdiagnosed as psoriasis this will not generally be something medical negligence lawyers will pursue. It also means that in cases where you are falsely diagnosed with a serious condition you do not have, medical negligence will only come into play if you suffer severe psychological trauma from this or undergo aggressive treatment you did not need, or which left you in a worse condition than before.
Missed Diagnoses Are Only Negligent If the Diagnosis Would Have Reasonably Been Expected to Have Been Picked Up
When it comes to missed diagnoses as a reason for medical negligence claims, you will effectively need to show that the doctor would have had the ability to make the diagnosis earlier, or should, under normal protocols, have recommended further tests which were you were not referred for.
You cannot claim negligence where the doctor had no opportunity to diagnose the condition, even if you visited the doctor regularly because of an unrelated reason. As an example, you would not be able to claim your doctor missed a diagnosis for breast cancer if you never went for any tests that would normally identify it or went to them about symptoms related to it. You would, however, possibly have a case if you saw a doctor about a breast lump and were told it was a cyst with no further tests done, and it later turned out to be cancer.
If a doctor did not take your concerns about symptoms seriously or did not send you for the tests you would expect, and you did later turn out to have a serious condition, this can also be an example of where a missed diagnosis could classify as negligence.
Diagnosis Issues Due to Lab Results
Sometimes, an incorrect diagnosis is made that is simply the product of inaccuracy in testing methods that are currently available to doctors for different conditions. While this can be distressing, false positives and misdiagnoses are an expected part of testing for some conditions, and where a doctor and testing lab are working according to normal standards and protocols, this is not negligence as nobody is to blame other than the limitations of medicine.
However, there are other times when incorrect diagnoses are the result of genuine errors or mistakes – for instance in labs that analyse samples for medical tests. If samples get mixed up, for instance, two people could receive the wrong diagnoses. If samples become contaminated, or are not examined properly, then again, any false diagnosis that came as a result could be seen as medical negligence. Another situation where you may have a case is with conditions that progress aggressively should your diagnosis be delayed because samples are lost. These are all theoretically times when the situation was avoidable if the people involved worked to normally expected standards, which is where they differ from the unavoidable percentage of incorrect results that come as a limitation of testing processes.
What to Do if You Have Experienced a Diagnosis Issue and Aren’t Sure if You Can Claim for Medical Negligence
If you, or someone close to you, has experienced negative effects as a result of either a missed diagnosis, an incorrect diagnosis, or a false positive for a serious condition, then you may still not be sure whether or not your situation could fall under the category of medical negligence and be eligible for a compensation claim or not. One of the first things you would need to do in this scenario is find the best medical negligence solicitors near you. Preferably try and find a law firm that specialises in this field, to arrange a preliminary consultation, such as The Medical Negligence Experts UK, who actually provide their first over the phone consultation for free.
The first consultation with most medical negligence lawyers before they begin officially working on your case will normally be free and will give you a chance to explain what you know about your situation and get some advice on whether or not it is a case you should proceed with.
When you go to meet with a lawyer for this purpose, bring with you any information you have relating to the diagnosis, including the dates and times of appointments and tests, the names of the doctors who you spoke to and any assessments that have been made since the incident that show that you have come to harm as a result of the issue.
In some cases, a medical negligence solicitor will be able to tell straight away from your story and evidence whether or not the case is likely to lead to a successful claim, and may offer to take it on straight away, or advise you not to proceed with it. However, if there isn’t enough information for them to be able to make a call on this, they may require some time to do their own preliminary investigation before they can reach a decision on whether or not to pursue your claim.
If you aren’t happy with anything that happens when you meet with your solicitor, you can of course have other consultations with alternative lawyers.
If you do believe that you have been a victim of negligence in a medical diagnosis, it is very important to come forward. Not only may you be due compensation to help cover any losses or permanent effects that you may have incurred but going ahead with cases like these helps boost the visibility of medical malpractice issues, and ultimately leads to better regulations in healthcare that benefit everyone. Medical negligence claims UK cases cost the NHS £1.7 billion in 2016, a figure that keeps rising each year, and so it is important that new cases are raised and patients continue to push for consistently high standards of healthcare.