Medical malpractice is not simply an injury sustained by a patient due to a doctor’s negligence. It can also be the result of a delayed diagnosis. This form of indirect harm can lead to significant and long lasting injury. For example, a delayed diagnosis involving a caesarean section is one of the most common forms of medical malpractice involving delayed diagnosis. A C-section is a surgical procedure where a baby is delivered through a surgical incision in the mother’s abdomen. If a doctor fails to diagnose and perform the procedure in a timely manner, the mother and the baby can suffer injuries that will last a lifetime.
Injuries sustained due to a delayed caesarean section are just one of many instances where delayed diagnosis is a form of medical malpractice. There are many others, but in order to pursue this type of medical malpractice suit three elements must be established: doctor-patient relationship, negligence, and harm caused by negligence.
Establishing the Doctor-Patient Relationship
Establishing a doctor-patient relationship is relatively simple, when a doctor sees a patient, the relationship is considered established. In delayed diagnosis cases, it is not necessary for the doctor to preside during the entire period of delay. If the doctor had the chance to make the proper diagnosis and did not, he or she is considered responsible for any injuries sustained due to the delay in receiving proper treatment.
A negligent doctor is one who fails to perform in a manner that is in a keeping with what is expected of a reasonably competent and perceptive doctor. To establish a medical malpractice claim, the injured party must prove the accepted standard of care and the fact that the standard of care was breached.
Standard of Care
Standard of care as it applies to a medical malpractice due to delayed diagnosis suit is defined as: how quickly a reasonably competent physician could be expected to make a particular diagnosis given the circumstances. Obviously, this grey area is open to interpretation. In most cases, a medical expert will be required to testify or sign an affidavit attesting to what he believes the proper timeline for diagnosis is.
Breach of Standard of Care
Once a standard of care has been established, it is quite easy to determine if it has been breached. If a reasonably competent physician would make a diagnosis in 24 hours and the attending physician took 96, a breach of standard of care has occurred.
Showing Harm Caused by Negligence
In order to pursue and win a medical malpractice suit, the plaintiff must prove that they suffered injury due to the doctor’s negligence. Injuries can include but are not limited to pain and suffering, additional medical costs, loss of earnings, loss of enjoyment.
The important aspect of any delayed diagnosis malpractice suit is to establish that the harm was a result of the delayed diagnosis. This means that the patients suffered more harm because of the delayed diagnosis. If the plaintiff would have suffered regardless of the timeliness of the diagnosis, the doctor may have acted negligently but there is no basis for a suit.