Can I Sue My Doctor For Misdiagnosis?

Misdiagnosis or delayed correct diagnosis from a medical practitioner may constitute negligence. 

However, misdiagnosis itself not evidence of medical negligence. In order for a misdiagnosis to be negligent it must result from your doctor failing to take “reasonable care” in diagnosing a condition. This requires a professional analysis of what the doctor did and did not do to arrive at their diagnosis.

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When can I claim compensation for a misdiagnosis?

You can claim compensation for a misdiagnosis if the medical practitioner was negligent. To establish negligence you will need to prove all of the following points:

1. A medical professional misdiagnosed or delayed in correctly diagnosing your medical condition

A misdiagnosis will only be considered negligent if it falls short of Australian medical standards. You must be able to show that another reasonably competent doctor would have been able to correctly diagnose your illness in the circumstances.

2. You suffered injury or harm

You must have suffered actual injury or harm as a result of the misdiagnosis. For example, as a result of a misdiagnosis, you may be subjected to surgery or aggressive or harmful treatment (such as chemotherapy) which would not have been necessary if the correct diagnosis had been made earlier.

3. The injury or harm was a direct result of the negligent treatment

You must be able to prove that the negligent misdiagnosis caused your injury. For example, if your doctor were to misdiagnose your broken leg as a strained ligament and failed to administer appropriate treatment, but the next day your leg was crushed completely in a car accident, the misdiagnosis would not be the cause of your harm. 

Proving a medical negligence claim is a complex process. If you believe a treating medical professional was negligent and caused you harm, we recommend that you consult with an experienced personal injury lawyer as soon as possible.

What are some commonly misdiagnosed conditions?

Among the most commonly misdiagnosed conditions are:

  • Cancer: misdiagnosed as Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), Crohn’s disease, peptic ulcer disease, gastritis, other digestive disorders, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, asthma or pneumonia
  • Celiac Disease: misdiagnosed as irritable bowel disease
  • Heart Attacks: mistaken for indigestion or a panic attack
  • Asthma: misdiagnosed as bronchitis
  • Stroke: misdiagnosed as vertigo, migraine or intoxication
  • Thyroid Conditions: misdiagnosed as depression, fibromyalgia
  • Lupus: Misdiagnosed as rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia or chronic fatigue syndrome
  • Parkinson’s: mistaken for a mild stroke, stress or Alzheimer’s
  • Lyme disease: commonly misdiagnosed as mononucleosis, the flu or depression

Why do doctors commonly misdiagnose medical conditions?

Negligence is not always the cause of a misdiagnosis. Mistakes and misjudgments typically occur in medical diagnosis because many medical conditions do not consistently exhibit the same symptoms in every individual. For example, women are much more likely to be misdiagnosed with a heart attack as they do not experience hallmark symptoms that precede a heart attack such as chest pains. Instead, women may experience discomfort in their neck, jaw, back, shoulder, arm or stomach, nausea, vomiting or heart burn. 

Other medical conditions only exhibit vague symptoms which overlap with other common conditions and are therefore commonly misdiagnosed. Limited access to patient information, medical history or inadequate consultation time with the patient are also factors that may result in a medical practitioner failing to arrive at the correct diagnosis. 

For these reasons, doctors are not required to attain an impossible standard of practice and errors may occur despite reasonable care being taken. Determining whether negligence is involved is a complex process and legal advice is recommended.

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Last update on:
May 29, 2018
Disclaimer: This information is designed for general information in relation to Queensland compensation law. It does not constitute legal advice. We strongly recommend you seek legal advice in regards to your specific situation. For expert advice call 1800 266 801 or chat via live chat to arrange free initial advice with our Principal lawyer, Greg Smith.


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