When does misdiagnosis constitute podiatric malpractice?
Many cases of podiatric malpractice stem from a delayed or mistaken diagnosis of a foot or ankle condition. Although misdiagnosis itself is not considered a sustainable cause for a malpractice lawsuit, an erroneous diagnosis that leads to an absence of necessary treatment, a delay in such treatment, or treatment that is incorrect, and leads to a worsening of the patient’s condition, can certainly be the foundation of a malpractice suit.
If you believe you have suffered injury or an exacerbation of your condition due to a podiatric misdiagnosis, you should consult with a personal injury attorney who is an expert in podiatric malpractice to have the best chance of receiving the compensation you deserve. In order to be successful, you should contact the attorney promptly to make sure your claim comes in under the statute of limitations for medical malpractice.
Proving Podiatric Malpractice Based on Diagnostic Errors
For a lawsuit claiming podiatric malpractice due to mistaken diagnosis to succeed, it has to be proven that:
- A doctor-patient relationship existed
- The doctor did not provide reasonably skillful and competent treatment (was negligent)
- The doctor’s negligence was the cause of injury or damage to the patient
It should be remembered that the definition of negligence goes beyond evidence of making a mistake. Everyone, including skilled podiatrists, makes mistakes. This is where an element of subjectivity enters the picture. The key to determining the podiatrist’s competence is assessing the means by which the doctor arrived at the diagnosis. This involves evaluating what the doctor did and did not do to arrive at the diagnosis, a process known as “differential diagnosis.”
How does differential diagnosis work?
Differential diagnosis, a system considered a necessary component of good medical practice, involves the doctor making a list of potential diseases or conditions that might be responsible for the patient’s symptoms. The list is made in order of probability and the doctor checks the validity of each possible diagnosis by:
- Medical observation and examination
- Detailed questioning of the patient’s symptoms
- Taking a complete medical history
- Ordering any necessary diagnostic tests
- Referring the patient to another specialist if necessary
In theory, the doctor then reaches the correct conclusion. In reality, however, a symptom may develop later; the patient may have forgotten to mention some piece of pertinent information; or a test may be flawed. If a misdiagnosis is made, in order for it to constitute malpractice on the part of doctor, the podiatrist must have:
- Omitted the correct diagnosis when compiling the differential diagnosis list where a reasonably skilled and competent doctor would have included it
- Included the correct diagnosis on the original list, but failed to verify it with appropriate tests or consultations with other appropriate specialists
If flawed diagnostic tests were the reason for the misdiagnosis, someone other than the doctor may be held legally responsible. If, for example, equipment (such as an X-ray machine) malfunctioned, or the laboratory results were incorrectly read, someone other than the podiatrist, such as a lab technician or a specialist in another field, may be found to be at fault.
Did the Misdiagnosis Harm the Patient?
Ultimately, in order to prove podiatric malpractice in terms of delayed or incorrect diagnosis, the patient’s attorney must be able to prove that such a mistake resulted in patient injury or in a worsening of the patient’s condition that could have been avoided. There are also rare cases in which the podiatrist diagnoses an illness or condition does not have and unneeded treatment is undergone. Sometimes, unnecessary surgery is performed. Even in situations where the patient does not undergo unnecessary treatment, the patient may be deemed legally entitled to recompense for extreme anxiety and stress.