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What Is Failure to Diagnose?

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Timely diagnosis is important because when an illness is not diagnosed in a timely manner, the ability to effectively treat it diminishes over time. Watch the video below as Bill Hinnant explains what failure to diagnose is and the lasting effects of not diagnosing an illness in time and the negligence that ensues.

Damages can be physical and financial. But medical expenses that may accrue following when the diagnosis should have been made, may be recoverable. 

What potentially helps a plaintiff is the subrogation charges to be reimbursed. This is not necessarily repaid to the health insurance and can put more of that money going into the patient/plaintiff’s pocket, or the estate pocket in the case of a concluded death.

The realization is that illnesses need to be diagnosed in a more timely manner to prevent negligence, particularly those that can be life-threatening, such as cancer, heart disease, and brain tumors. The failure to pick up through these types of illnesses is negligence and can be the difference between a minor inconvenience and perhaps serious consequences, including death.

 

Video Transcript

Thank you, I appreciate the question.

I think failure to diagnose may be better termed or expanded to say failure to timely diagnose because if the disease entity was not diagnosed at some point, of course, we would not know that there might have been negligence in that diagnosis being made. 

Timely Diagnosis – Timely diagnosis is important

So timely diagnosis is important because when an illness is diagnosed, and it’s not diagnosed timely, the ability to effectively treat it diminishes over time.

I recently had a case of an orthopedic surgeon who actually was seen for some heart symptoms, and had a history of heart disease, and underwent some imaging studies that were appropriately ordered. But the echocardiographer who did the initial study made a finding of some real problems at the level of the aortic root, and other studies were recommended to get further information related to that problem. 

The treating physicians who were actually managing the patient, in this case, an orthopedic surgeon, failed to really heed his recommendations to look at these other studies.

Undetection – Untimely diagnosis can create more serious problems

Well in short, because those other studies were not done, an aortic root abscess, which was the result of an infected pacemaker wire, was not picked up for approximately three months after it was present and doing considerable harm to the patient.

Symptoms – Symptoms that can link to undiagnosed illnesses

It included, as you can imagine, notable symptoms: fever, chill, abnormal laboratory values, etc.

And just to let you know, an aortic root abscess is more or less a surgical emergency. And the surgery that has to be done to treat that problem is pretty extensive. It’s not something just anyone can do.

Well, the long and short of it is by the time the diagnosis was made, this orthopedic surgeon had a significant problem. In other words, the size of this abscess had enlarged considerably. And as a result, he had to undergo a very complicated, very difficult procedure. He did survive the procedure. But within two days following the surgery, he unfortunately died.

A timely diagnosis can save a life

Of course, the position there would be that had he been diagnosed timely, he likely could have been treated effectively and cured. But because of the failure to make the diagnosis in a timely fashion, this gentleman, unfortunately, had a problem that was a bad problem. But because it was not timely recognized and timely treated, what could have just been an inconvenience or a more minor less complications surgical procedure, became much more complicated. And as a result, this gentleman, unfortunately, lost his life. 

Your Recoverable Losses

And the damages in the case of course, for someone who is an orthopedic surgeon, are pretty extensive. Particularly if they’re working and earning a living, those are damages that are recoverable. The medical expenses that may accrue following when the diagnosis should have been made, may be recoverable. And the good news is in certain cases, where there’s failure to diagnose, what actually has to be done does not really change, it just is done much later.

And the way that that potentially helps a plaintiff is the subrogation charges that need to be reimbursed to whoever, perhaps had the patient’s health insurance, don’t necessarily have to be repaid, which of course puts any amount in recovery in dollars. It puts more of that money going into the patient/plaintiff’s pocket, or his estate’s pocket in the case of a death when that case is concluded.

Early Detection is key

So again I think all of us realize that the need to pick up illnesses in a timely way potentially particularly things that are life-threatening, like cancer, heart disease, brain tumors, these types of things that again are potentially life-threatening. Everyone knows and hears repeatedly that early detection is the key, and that’s the truth.

So again, the failure to pick up things timely can be the difference between a minor inconvenience and perhaps serious consequences including death.

Learn More:

Medication Error

Delayed Diagnosis

Failure to Treat

 

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