Diagnosis Errors and You

Woman Waiting For Medical ExaminationWhen an individual gets sick, it is only natural to seek to remedy the illness. Unfortunately, an individual who goes to a healthcare provider may come out suffering from more than what he or she went in with. In a fair number of cases, this can be due to the fault of the healthcare professional making an error in diagnosing the patient. While doctors and other health care providers are trained professionals, there are times when errors are made regarding an individual’s diagnosis. Common errors include misdiagnosis, delayed diagnosis, or even failure to diagnose, and can have serious and long-lasting effects on a person. Before looking to the different types of diagnosis errors, however, it is important to first understand what actions or omissions qualify as medical malpractice.

Medical Malpractice

While there are many factors to take into consideration that can affect the outcome of a medical malpractice claim, it is important to keep in mind that just because an error was made does not mean that a patient will have a claim for malpractice, or even that malpractice occurred. While determining where and when malpractice occurred can be a tricky issue, Florida law provides some guidance. Under Florida Statute 766.102, in order to succeed in his claim for malpractice, a patient must first show that the treating physician breached the professional standard of care for a health care provider. While the term “professional standard of care” may seem a bit nebulous in some cases, courts will generally look to the level of care, skill, and treatment recognized as acceptable and appropriate by similar health care providers of reasonable prudence.

In addition to the requirement that the plaintiff must bear the burden of proving that the physician was negligent, Florida law also restricts how a plaintiff may go about proving the negligence of a physician. For example, generally, the existence of a medical injury does not create any inference or presumption of negligence. Similarly, records, policies, or testimony of an insurer’s reimbursement policies or reimbursement determination regarding the care provided to the plaintiff will not be admissible as evidence in any medical negligence action. That being said, Florida law does recognize that the presence of a foreign object within the body of the patient is, on its face, sufficient evidence of negligence.

Diagnosis Errors

Due to the nature of the physician-patient relationship, even the slightest error can have a massive effect on a person’s life. As with many other medical errors, such as pharmaceutical errors or anesthesia errors, diagnosis errors can result from a variety of factors ranging from fatigue to plain negligence. Not only can a diagnosis error potentially harm the patient, but it can possibly lead to permanent damage, and in some cases, death.

Diagnosis errors can be divided into three basic categories. These categories are misdiagnosis, delayed diagnosis, and failure to diagnose. As mentioned above, however, the existence of a diagnostic error alone will generally be insufficient to support a claim for malpractice.


The error of misdiagnosis involves a health care physician providing an incorrect diagnosis of an illness or condition. The primary danger that stems from misdiagnosis is that the prescribed recovery, which often includes medication, can have adverse effects on a patient. For example, a patient who is misdiagnosed with a disease may receive mediation that would not only fail to treat the current malady, but may also aggravate any unknown conditions.

Delayed Diagnosis

In addition to misdiagnosis, another potentially deadly form of diagnosis error is that of the delayed diagnosis. When a patient is a victim of a delayed diagnosis, he may receive an accurate diagnosis of any diseases or injuries, but the diagnosis may come too late for physicians to treat the issue. An example of this kind of diagnosis error occurs when a doctor may fail to diagnose a form of cancer in time to treat it. Due to the necessity of medical tests and the time it may take to perform one, there are times when some delay is inevitable.

Failure to Diagnose

Finally, there is the matter of those cases where the health care provider fails to diagnose an issue altogether. These errors can be caused by a number of reasons, ranging from inexperience to fatigue. For example, a physician may completely overlook clear signs of an infectious disease, and as a result, miss an opportunity to treat a serious disease in the early stages. It is important to keep in mind that failure to diagnose a disease that is otherwise hard to detect will generally not be sufficient to meet the requirements of medical negligence.