Patients often develop a strong trust relationship with their doctors, especially those they have either known for several years or those who are revered in their area of expertise. Receiving a serious medical diagnosis from your trusted doctor can have immediate and long-term effects beyond the diagnosis itself.
If you later learn you were misdiagnosed, you might endure a new wave of emotional trauma as well as potentially lost time for proper treatment. Depending on the circumstances of your misdiagnosis, you might be eligible to sue and receive compensation for medical malpractice. Courts have ruled that emotional distress is as valid as physical harm when it comes to grounds for a malpractice suit.
When a Misdiagnosis Causes Emotional Distress
Courts recognize the psychological damage brought on by a misdiagnosis, but it can be harder to prove than physical harm. In many instances, emotional distress is as damaging as physical distress. In some cases, intense emotional trauma can manifest in physical ailments.
Here are some emotional ramifications of misdiagnosis:
- Memory problems
- Mental anguish
- Suicidal thoughts
The physical manifestations of emotional trauma can include:
- Chronic pain
- Nausea and other gastrointestinal problems
- Respiratory issues
- Skin disorders
The emotional and accompanying physical manifestations can have long-term effects and hamper returning to work or other normal activities.
How Common Is Misdiagnosis?
Claims involving diagnosis are the No. 1 medical malpractice claim in the U.S., followed by surgical errors and treatment-related missteps. Medical malpractice suits are common. By age 65, about 99% of high-risk specialists are sued and 75% of lower-risk physicians face malpractice. Neurosurgery and thoracic-cardiovascular surgery topped the list for the most claims while pediatrics and psychiatry experienced the fewest.
A 2016 John Hopkins study found that about 250,000 deaths can be attributed to medical malpractice, making it the third-leading cause of death behind only heart disease and cancer. With misdiagnosis leading the reasons behind medical malpractice lawsuits, it’s easy to see that the wrong diagnosis can have devastating, even fatal, ramifications.
Misdiagnosis vs. Delayed Diagnosis
Misdiagnosis and delayed diagnosis are different but can have similar results. In a misdiagnosis, a patient can undergo expensive and painful treatments only to continue to decline in health because they are being treated for a condition they do not have. For delayed diagnosis, the physician eventually comes to the correct conclusion, but the patient has lost valuable time to treat the condition.
Unnecessary and expensive tests, treatments, surgeries, and the accompanying emotional trauma are possible consequences of misdiagnosis and delayed diagnosis. Sadly, death is another possible outcome.
An example of misdiagnosis is a patient being treated for a migraine when they are really having a stroke. This misdiagnosis could lead to a host of problems, including paralysis or death. In an example of delayed diagnosis, the doctor could correctly diagnose cancer but only after several missteps. The delayed onset of treatment can lead to longer and more painful treatments because the cancer has spread. Death could also be the result.
Medical Malpractice Compensation for a Misdiagnosis
Whether the diagnosis has been missed or delayed, there may be grounds for a malpractice claim. The claim must show that the doctor failed to exhibit the skill that a similarly experienced doctor would demonstrate. This failure resulted in physical or emotional harm or both.
In such a suit, you could be compensated for the medical costs, pain and suffering, and emotional trauma. Some states require emotional distress to cause physical distress in order to make a malpractice suit, but New York is not one of them. Wrongful death lawsuits are often based on some error in diagnosis, especially in cases where the patient was never treated for their illness. New York does not have caps on medical malpractice awards.
If you or someone you love has been injured physically or emotionally from a misdiagnosis, the experienced team at the Law Office of David A. Kates can explain your legal options and the strength of your case.