A previous post on this blog talked about the disastrous effects a misdiagnosis or even a failure of a doctor to make a timely diagnosis can have on a Kansas City resident. Indeed, patients on both sides of the state line have every right to expect their doctors to tell them what is wrong with them promptly and accurately.
However, even in our age of great progress in the realm of science and technology, the practice of medicine is still a matter of educated guesswork.
This means that a doctor can be expected, from time to time, to have to run through options and make her best judgments when narrowing down a diagnosis. The law will not punish doctors under these circumstances, even if the doctor turns out to be wrong or follows a dead lead when diagnosing a patient.
There is, however, a process that doctors have to follow when making a diagnosis if they want protection from a medical malpractice lawsuit. Under this process, a doctor must evaluate the patient and make a list, in order of probability, of what could be ailing the patient. The doctor then goes down the list performing additional tests to confirm or rule out each item on the list. The idea is for the doctor to determine the correct diagnosis via the process of elimination.
While a doctor has some leeway with respect to this list, if it turns out that the patient's actual medical condition does not even make the list, then the patient may have a valid claim if he or she gets hurt because of the omission. Likewise, if the diagnosis was considered but not properly vetted with additional testing, the patient may have a claim.
Patients who have been misdiagnosed may not always have a claim for medical malpractice, but they should at least consider having their cases evaluated by a legal professional who has experience handling these types of cases.