Doctors need to order the correct medical tests at the correct time. If a diagnosis is delayed, then a patient’s condition can worsen. Some patients may die due to a delayed diagnosis. For other patients, the delay in the diagnosis often directly affects whether the patient’s illness can be cured or treated.
When doctors delay a medical diagnosis due to neglect, they must be held accountable for the deaths or harm they cause. Hospitals and medical practices that employ doctors who commit medical malpractice may also be liable for a patient’s death or injuries. But what can you do when a delay in treatment is beyond the control of the medical facility or its practitioners?
A recent case reported by CBS News shows one cause for the delay in diagnosis and treatment. The delay, according to professionals, is due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The delay in the supply of blood at some city blood centers in the US is causing hospitals to delay surgeries.
According to OneBlood the largest blood center in the Southeast, they’re struggling to meet the demand for blood. One of the workers at OneBlood said that some of the places where people used to give blood just aren’t making donations anymore. Before the pandemic, many people at religious organizations, businesses, festivals, schools, and movie theaters used to make large blood donations. As people stayed home and reduced contact with other people, they stopped donating blood. OneBlood said that the demand for blood products has increased 10% across the US.
Blood shortages are causing delays in surgeries
As a result of the shortage, some hospitals are delaying surgeries. Other hospitals are scrambling to meet their surgery schedules. One hospital administrator said that just one “major transfusion” can cause the hospital’s blood supply to evaporate.
For some patients, the lack of blood can have life or death consequences. In one example, an 11-year-old boy with leukemia needed 30-plus transfusions during his chemotherapy treatments, which forced a delay in a necessary platelet transfusion. Fortunately, enough blood became available for the transfusion – but only with a few hours to spare.
The loss of blood due to reduced donations is likely not medical malpractice – as long as the hospital takes all necessary steps possible to secure an adequate blood supply. If hospitals and ambulatory surgery centers don’t follow standard protocols (given the current conditions such as the pandemic), they may be liable for any deaths or harm that occurs.
When can a delayed diagnosis lead to a medical malpractice claim?
According to Standard of Care, a delayed diagnosis can mean that necessary treatment is delayed, which means the patient will suffer.
The types of tests a doctor needs to order differ depending on the physical and oral examination of the patient and the possible disorders. Doctors need to balance the patient’s symptoms, the lab tests results, and personal observations to make a competent medical diagnosis.
If a diagnosis is delayed or inaccurate, the doctor may be liable for medical malpractice if the patient dies, sustains additional injuries, or suffers from exacerbated illnesses and associated symptoms. A competent diagnosis should be made within a reasonable amount of time after the doctor-patient relationship begins. What constitutes a reasonable amount of time is often a detail that skilled doctors who have experience in the same medical field must make.
What are the common causes of delayed diagnoses?
A delay in diagnosis is usually due to:
- Not ordering the correct tests
- Not ordering the tests in time
- Not interpreting the test results accurately
- Not investigating whether another diagnosis is more accurate
- Not seeking help from another more experienced doctor
If the tests aren’t conducted accurately or in time, then the lab technician, radiologist, or hospital may be responsible for the improper test. A hospital can also be liable for a delayed diagnosis if it employed the physician who failed to make the timely diagnosis.
What kinds of injuries can a delayed diagnosis cause?
In order to file a medical malpractice lawsuit, the delayed diagnosis must cause harm. The usual type of harm that a delayed diagnosis causes is that the patient’s condition worsens until the correct diagnosis is made. This delay can mean:
- Additional pain and suffering due to the delay
- Unnecessary treatment because the correct diagnosis wasn’t made
- That the surgery or treatment is more difficult because of the delay
- A patient dies because he/she didn’t receive treatment in time
- Additional lost income because the patient couldn’t work during the delay
- Chronic pain
What damages can you seek in a delayed diagnosis case?
Our Memphis medical malpractice lawyers demand that all liable physicians, technicians, and defendants pay the following damages if their delay in a diagnosis constitutes medical malpractice:
- All your medical expenses. This includes the cost of additional medical tests, any surgeries you need, visits with your doctors and specialists, and treatment with therapists. It also includes the cost of your medications and any medical devices.
- Your pain and suffering. This is the compensation for your aches, hurts, worries, and anxieties. It includes the extra physical pain and emotional suffering you have because of the delayed diagnosis.
- The amount of money you lost because you can’t work. This sum includes lost wages and lost profits while you were in treatment. It can also include any potential future earnings if your delayed diagnoses affect your ability to work and provide for your family indefinitely. In some cases, you may also be entitled to the lost wages of a spouse who acts as your caretaker.
- Funeral and burial costs. If a delayed diagnosis lead to the death of your loved one, you can seek funeral and burial costs through a wrongful death lawsuit.
Additional damages for the loss of consortium and any punitive damages may be due.
At Bailey & Greer, PLLC, our medical malpractice lawyers have been fighting for accident and injury victims in West Tennessee for nearly 35 years. We work with doctors who specialize in the medical field that applies to your injuries or illness – or that of a loved one. We work to show that the doctors and hospitals that treated you failed to diagnose your illness or injuries in time – causing unnecessary harm or even death. To learn if you have a medical malpractice case, call our Memphis and Jackson offices at 901-475-7434 or use our contact form.
Since graduating magna cum laude in 2005 from the University of Memphis School of Law, Thomas has helped make a difference in the lives of victims of serious personal injury, wrongful death, and professional negligence. Thomas has extensive trial experience in both state and federal court. Among other victories in the courtroom, Thomas obtained several impressive jury verdicts and settlements
Read more about Thomas R. Greer