Misdiagnosis Can Lead to Medical Malpractice Claims (by John McKiggan Q.C.)

Differential Diagnosis

Doctors are trained to diagnose patients using the “differential diagnosis” process.

Medical malpractice lawyer know that conducting a differential diagnosis before administering treatment is critical, because without a proper medical diagnosis it may be impossible to provide proper medical care.

Three Simple Steps

The differential diagnosis process has 3 steps.

Step 1: Get Their Information: The doctor should gather as much information about the problem as they can. For example, history, risk factors, signs and symptoms.

Step 2: Create a List: The doctor should create a complete list of everything that could reasonably be causing the signs and symptoms.

Step 3: Rule In or Out: The doctor should apply the differential diagnosis method to rule in or rule out the possible causes starting with the most dangerous ones first.

Probable vs. Possible

Some illnesses and conditions are more common that others. Most of the time the probable cause of the patients illness turns out after investigation to be the actual cause.

Sometimes an illness or condition may be very rare. It may be the possible cause; but it is unlikely that the illness is the cause of the patients’ complaints. In other words, the odds are that the rare but possible cause is not the actual cause.

But not always. Even if the odds are 1:1000, 1:10,000 or even 1:100,000 sometimes the rare but possible cause is the actual cause.

No Guessing Allowed

That’s why doctors are not allowed to assume that the probable cause is the actual cause. If a doctor makes an assumption, without considering all the possibilities, the doctor is just playing the odds, or guessing, that their diagnosis is correct.

Betting with the Patients Life

A doctor who bases a diagnosis on probability rather than possibility is simply making a bet. Most of the time, based on probabilities,  the doctor will be right.

But the problem is that the doctor is potentially betting the patients life if they guess wrong.

Identify and Eliminate

That’s why the practice of medicine requires all doctors to use the same systematic approach to diagnosis in every single case.

The differential diagnosis process helps a doctor identify all possible causes of a patient’s signs and symptoms.

The doctor can then systematically conduct tests to rule in or rule out each item on the differential diagnosis list until the doctor is left with one or more probable causes for the patient’s illness.

No Differential Diagnosis = Negligence

Diagnostic errors (medical malpractice) happen when doctors don’t use the differential process, or skip one of the steps, resulting in the wrong diagnosis, resulting in incorrect care, which can lead to injury or death.

Do You Think They Made a Mistake?

Unfortunately there is no law in Canada that requires doctors or nurses to tell patients when they made a mistake or error that caused a patient’s injury or death. Often patients or family members think the injury or death was unavoidable. They may never know that they have been a victim of medical malpractice.

Think We Can Help You?

If you or your child has suffered from an injury that you think may be caused by misdiagnosis you can contact medical malpractice lawyer John McKiggan Q.C. online or by calling (877) 423-2050 or toll free at (877) 423-2050.

You can also get more free information on John’s Halifax Medical Malpractice Lawyer Blog.

You may also want to read John McKiggan’s book Health Scare: The Consumer’s Guide to Medical Malpractice Claims in Canada.

You can buy a copy on Amazon.com (all sale proceeds are donated to charity) or you can get a free copy by contacting us through our website.

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