When medical providers fail to diagnose serious medical problems, those problems can quickly get worse, leading to tragic and even fatal outcomes. If a physician’s erroneous diagnosis or misdiagnosis causes serious injury or death, the victims or their surviving loved ones may have the right to seek monetary compensation for the damages suffered.
At the Law Office of Kelley J. Johnson, our dedicated medical malpractice lawyer has been helping patients and families throughout Indiana for over 15 years. Give us a call to discuss your case today in a free consultation.
How Do Medical Professionals Diagnose Infections?
Diagnosing an infection starts with identifying the signs and symptoms of infection, and it requires proper communication, documentation, and review of lab test results. In medicine, doctors use a differential diagnosis to narrow down the potential cause of a particular symptom. In general, the process works like this:
- A patient presents symptoms, and treating physicians create a broad list of potential diseases, injuries, or illnesses that could potentially cause the problem.
- Then, using blood tests, radiological tests, and other types of lab work, the physicians can carefully eliminate conditions that would not likely be causing the symptoms. If done properly, in most cases, doctors are able to narrow down the root cause of the problem to one or two primary potential causes.
- From this narrowed list of conditions, physicians can attempt to treat one of the suspected problems. Sometimes a condition will be known to respond to a certain medication. If the medication works, then doctors have the answer. If the medication does not, it may imply the other condition is the culprit.
Much like a highly skilled mechanic, doctors must use this scientific process to narrow down and weed out potential causes, in order to make sure that the true condition is diagnosed and treated.
When Is a Doctor Liable for Failing to Diagnose an Infection?
Failing to diagnose a condition is a challenging situation because it typically suggests that one of several things has gone wrong. For example:
Nursing staff have not properly documented symptoms. As a primary matter, if nursing staff and lower level medical professionals are not careful to properly identify, document, and communicate signs and symptoms through proper patient charting methods, then treating physicians and specialists will not have the information needed to make a proper diagnosis.
A differential diagnosis was not performed. Sometimes experienced doctors may feel they are capable of using a short cut or relying on experience to “spitball” a diagnosis without carrying out a methodical differential diagnosis. In reality, many times this works fine. Most common diagnoses may be very similar, and an experienced doctor will likely be able to make an effective diagnosis without going through a differential diagnostic work-up on every patient. However, these procedures are in place to make sure that all diagnoses are caught – not just most of them.
A doctor failed to refer the matter to a specialist. In healthcare, doctors (even experienced specialists themselves) need to be willing and able to seek a consult from infectious disease and other experts who may have more specific knowledge of the problem at hand. By failing to refer to a specialist, some doctors leave their patients suffering needlessly.
Compensation for Damages Caused by Failure to Diagnose Infections
A nasty infection that is not properly diagnosed can lead to permanent injury or death. Some cases may require the use of a breathing tube through intubation, long-term IV antibiotic use, oxygen therapy, or even surgical interventions. These can be extremely expensive treatments, and they can be very painful and almost unbearable, especially when a patient may have gone into a healthcare environment with a relatively minor problem hoping to get better, only to be made worse.
Failure to diagnose an infection can be very serious. Compensation is based on a number of factors, including the severity of the negligence involved, the nature and extent of the injuries, and the damages caused. Here are a few examples of compensation that might be available:
- Compensation for pain and suffering
- Money to reimburse medical costs
- Money to help with future medical costs
- Compensation for lost income and wages
- Wrongful death damages when a loved one dies
Signs of an Infection
The symptoms that a patient experiences will depend on the type of infection present. Some of the common signs of infection include:
- Swollen lymph nodes
Failure to recognize symptoms and diagnose an infection can lead to serious health issues. For example, an untreated infection can result in sepsis, a life-threatening emergency condition characterized by mental confusion, shortness of breath and increased heart rate, severe pain, and other serious problems. An undiagnosed infection can also lead to systemic inflammatory response syndrome, where inflammation spreads throughout the body and can lead to shock and organ failure.
Contact Our Indiana Failure to Diagnose Infection Lawyer Now
If you suspect that there has been a failure to diagnose a surgical infection or some other type of infection that you acquired in a healthcare facility, then you need to act fast. The medical malpractice statute of limitations in Indiana is just two years from the date of the injury. There are specific situations where this may be extended, but it is rare.
Therefore, it’s very important to speak with a lawyer about the situation as soon as you suspect that medical errors may play a role in your injuries. After all, when it comes to infections, it can be a little difficult to assess exactly when the date of injury should be.
In most cases, it’s the date on which the actual missed diagnosis occurred. As you may guess, many people may not even realize there was a missed diagnosis until weeks or even months later. Therefore, you often have very little time to act to protect your own interests.
For help with a missed infection diagnosis, contact the Law Office of Kelley J. Johnson today. The call is free, and there is absolutely no obligation.