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Medical Malpractice Liability for Missed Diagnoses


When a patient visits with his/her medical professional about a specific complaint, the medical professional will typically instruct the patient to undergo a number of tests. These tests are used to determine the issue causing the patient’s symptoms and other medical issues, as well as offer an indication of what can be used to alleviate or cure the condition. To be sure of what exactly the condition is, most medical professionals schedule a variety of tests. Although the sheer number of tests may seem like overkill to the patient, it is actually a testament to the strength of the American medical profession to use every avenue possible to diagnose. Unfortunately, not every test is accurate, nor properly scheduled. And thus, mistakes can happen. When these mistakes turn out, upon review, to be preventable and cause injury due to delay, engaging the services of an attorney experienced in medical malpractice may be necessary for financial recovery. Recently, a Boston jury awarded a man $18.4 million against his medical team for their failure to test for HIV, which, unfortunately, progressed to AIDS for the man. In fact, as it turned out, the man was initially scheduled for the HIV test, but his medical professional canceled the test, stating that he felt the patient was not at risk for HIV. A discussion of medical malpractice, generally, and how a missed diagnosis can result in liability for a medical professional, will follow below.

Medical Malpractice, Generally

Medical malpractice is, essentially, the legal theory of negligence applied to the medical profession. Like negligence, which requires proof of a breached duty, and damages to an individual to be successful, in order to be successful in an action for medical malpractice, the plaintiff must prove the following:

  • His/Her medical professional was negligent, in that he/she did not adhere to an established standard of care;
  • The negligence by the medical professional caused an injury to a patient; and
  • The patient sustained a loss or incurred damages as a result of the injury.

Missed Diagnoses

Most medical conditions are progressive, in that they advance in generally negative steps. As such, most medical conditions require timely diagnosis. In many cases, even the most serious medical illnesses, such as cancer and other terminal diseases, benefit from early diagnosis and treatment. Consequently, the failure to diagnose a patient’s medical condition will, unfortunately, force the patient to suffer for a prolonged period of time and, in some cases, suffer irreversible health damage. This means that the patient is, effectively, harmed twice – first, by not addressing the condition when it could be treated relatively easily, and second, by prolonging suffering. Further, a missed diagnosis postpones, and at times denies, lifesaving treatment. Accordingly, a greater delay in diagnosing a medical condition typically reduces the chances for full recovery.

Nevertheless, it is important to note that the failure to diagnose is not always the result of medical malpractice. In many cases, medical professionals may find it difficult to make an accurate diagnosis in some patients. Further, some conditions may not immediately become evident. Regardless, a missed diagnosis will be considered to be medical malpractice when the medical professional fails to take the appropriate measures in accordance with the established standard of care, a line based upon what is standard in the industry and what other similarly skilled doctors would do in similar circumstances.

Seek Legal Advice

If you, or a loved one, visited a medical professional and you believe you received treatment that rose to the level of medical malpractice, speak to an experienced medical malpractice attorney as soon as possible to ascertain how you may be able to recover compensation. You should not have to face the financial burden alone. The attorneys at Leontire & Associates, P.C. have the experience necessary to analyze your specific situation and will work with you to help you obtain just compensation. Contact our Boston office today.


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