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Is a False Diagnosis Considered Failure to Diagnose?


A false diagnosis is a type of diagnostic failure that can cause serious consequences. Watch the video below as Bill Hinnant explains why a failure to diagnose might occur and why it can be potentially deadly.

A false diagnosis can happen when a doctor or radiologist does one of the following things:

  • Misreads an imaging study
  • Misreads a lab report
  • Fails to order another test to confirm a diagnosis
  • Fails to order a differential test to determine whether a condition is of one type or another

A patient who receives a false diagnosis for a benign condition might suffer serious harm if he or she has a more serious condition. Serious harm can also result when a patient is falsely diagnosed with a serious condition and receives unnecessary treatment.

What Doctors Must Do to Avoid 

Doctors must make sure that they obtain all possible information about a medical condition to make an appropriate diagnosis and effectively treat the patient. Imaging studies, lab tests, and electrophysiological studies are not infallible. While they are helpful tools, they have limits. Some are unclear, requiring doctors to follow up with additional tests. When an abnormality is identified, a doctor might need to order additional tests to correctly diagnose the condition.

Accuracy is critical. When a doctor fails to properly diagnose a serious condition, the patient’s condition might significantly worsen. A misdiagnosed patient might suffer permanent disabilities or death because of not receiving the correct treatment.

Failure to Diagnose

Consult An Experienced Medical Malpractice Attorney

If you believe that you were falsely diagnosed and suffered serious harm because of your doctor’s medical negligence, you should consult a physician -attorney at LawMD. As both physicians and attorneys, we have decades of experience handling failure to diagnose and other medical negligence cases. Contact us today for a free consultation by calling 1-888-MY-LAWMD.


Learn More:

Delayed Diagnosis

Is a Delay in Diagnosis Considered Failure to Diagnose?

What Is Failure to Diagnose?


Video Transcript

0:46 Proper Diagnosis & Treatment
1:05 X-Rays & Lab Tests
2:29 Accuracy is Important

It would be. And I think again, that’s why I mentioned in my first example, and again it’s a true story about the orthopedic surgeon.

0:46 Proper Diagnosis & Treatment

You need to not only know exactly what’s wrong in the case of a medical illness of any kind. You need to delineate it and know everything about it that is possibly obtainable in order to 

  1. Make the proper diagnosis, and then
  2. Effectively treat it

1:05 X-Rays & Lab Tests

As our listeners probably realize, x-rays and lab tests, electrophysiological studies, whatever the case may be, these studies have limits. Some are better than others. Certain x-rays are like looking through a dirty window and others are pristine. You may get a grainy poor image or you may get almost a perfect image.

But when you have an abnormality, you need to go potentially from one imaging technique to a different one to really know what the diagnosis is. You may need to follow up an abnormal lab test with a different lab test. You may need to take some study that’s been done, and follow it up with another study to be sure you know exactly what you’re treating. Because in many cases, entities that could be totally benign, and be confused with more serious entities. And of course, that’s ok when you have a benign entity.

But on the other hand, when an illness is potentially serious, is misidentified as a benign entity, you could have a real problem that could lead to significant morbidity, disability, or mortality on behalf of that patient. And again, none of us, I think, wants to wish any untoward consequence on one of our fellow human beings.

2:29 Accuracy is Important

So yes, it’s important to know exactly what you’re dealing with. These are cases where you can’t be generally right. You have to be on the money, every time, and know exactly what you’re dealing with.

So the shortfalls in those cases may be the failure to get a particular lab test, the failure to get a particular x-ray.

Years ago, I had a case involving differential diagnosis of two entities that are somewhat alike. One was multiple sclerosis, which many of you have heard of. And the other is a disease which many of you have not heard of called Devic’s disease, or neuromyelitis optica.

Those two entities on the surface can look very much alike. But there is one laboratory test that distinguishes the two. And the reason that’s important is that the treatment for the two is much different. And you want to be sure that you know exactly what you’re dealing with upfront because a subtle difference may make the difference in a correct diagnosis versus an incorrect diagnosis. And likewise in the damages involved. That is whether the patient actually gets better or whether they continue to suffer adverse consequences, pain, suffering, whatever the case may be.



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