Failure to diagnose medical emergencies | Morris James LLP

Some medical conditions are considered medical emergencies because, without immediate medical treatment, the patient could die or suffer serious permanent injury. Common examples of medical emergencies include heart attack, stroke, trauma resulting in severe bleeding or injury to an organ or limb, bowel obstruction, cauda equina syndrome, and pulmonary embolism. These conditions frequently appear in the emergency department, where staff must be trained to quickly diagnose and treat these and other medical emergencies. When patients come to the hospital for a medical emergency, they can only receive the appropriate treatment in a timely manner if the medical personnel make a correct and timely diagnosis. Unfortunately, sometimes medical providers fail to correctly or timely diagnose a medical emergency. When this happens, medical providers can commit medical malpractice, in which case they can be held liable for injuries sustained by the patient. In this article, we discuss medical malpractice issues related to medical emergencies.

How are medical emergencies correctly diagnosed?

If a patient presents to a hospital with a medical emergency, emergency department personnel are required to promptly assess the patient and treat the emergency in an effort to stabilize the patient. Staff assessment includes obtaining a reliable history of the patient’s condition, from a family member or other source (if possible) performing a physical examination, and ordering diagnostic tests appropriate such as imaging studies and timely blood tests. Medical personnel are required to use all of this available information to formulate a diagnosis or, in the event that a diagnosis is unclear, a list of likely diagnoses – called a differential diagnosis – to rule out life-threatening conditions.

When there are several potential diagnoses on the provider’s differential diagnosis, the provider should first try to rule out the most serious emergencies. For example, if a medical provider sees a patient in the emergency department complaining of chest pain, that provider should quickly rule out a heart attack or pulmonary embolism, because if these conditions go untreated, even for short periods of time, the patient could die. If a patient with chest pain is found to have no medical emergency, the provider can later determine if the chest pain is from something less serious and urgent, such as muscle strain. If emergency department personnel fail to consider and treat the emerging condition appropriately, and the patient sustains an injury, the patient may have a medical malpractice claim.

What types of non-diagnosis requests exist for medical emergencies?

There are many examples of medical providers failing to diagnose medical emergencies correctly and in a timely manner. Here we discuss some of them.

A common misdiagnosis claim occurs when a patient presents with a medical emergency, but the healthcare provider incorrectly assumes that the patient’s symptoms are related to a common, less serious medical problem, as opposed to a rare and more serious condition. An example of this is when a care provider quickly assumes the patient’s flu-like symptoms are from the flu or COVID-19, when in fact the patient has a more serious infection that, if left untreated, can cause catastrophic injury or even death.

Another example of a claim for failure to diagnose is when the patient has a medical emergency, but the medical staff simply fails to assess the patient or order diagnostic studies in a timely manner. For example, if a patient presents to the hospital with signs and symptoms of stroke, but the emergency department is understaffed or unusually busy, the patient may not be assessed and treated in a timely manner. . Because timing is important in these types of cases, the failure of emergency department personnel to expedite patient testing and treatment can result in serious and permanent injury.

A misdiagnosis claim may also exist if medical providers discharge a patient from the emergency department before determining the cause of the patient’s complaints. Emergency department personnel may mistakenly consider the patient’s condition to be stable, believing that the problem can be solved by the patient’s treating physician or other ambulatory care providers. Premature discharge, however, can be catastrophic if medical providers fail to consider the possibility, or even the likelihood, of the patient suffering from a medical emergency because, outside of the hospital setting, a patient is much less likely to ‘to have good health. result when they suffer a serious complication of their medical emergency.

Finally, a common example of medical malpractice involving medical emergencies is where medical personnel misinterpret or fail to review the results of laboratory results or diagnostic studies that would help provide an accurate and timely diagnosis. This can happen due to understaffing, system errors, or simple miscommunication between hospital staff. When this happens, the patient’s condition worsens over time, which can lead to irreversible injury to the patient.

How can I prove that a medical professional failed to diagnose my medical emergency?

Medical malpractice claims involve complex questions of medicine and law. To prove that a medical professional failed to diagnose your medical emergency appropriately and in a timely manner, you need to hire attorneys who understand these complex issues of medicine and law. Our attorneys have experience handling failed diagnosis claims involving many different areas, including medical emergencies, and have the skills and resources to prove a valid claim.

Like any medical malpractice claim, proving that you were not diagnosed with a medical emergency requires you to prove that the healthcare provider did not act reasonably in the circumstances (also called a breach of standard of care) and that this failure caused an injury. Each of these elements of the claim must be supported by expert medical testimony, and our attorneys are experienced and qualified to select the right experts for your case.

If you or a loved one has been the victim of a misdiagnosis of a medical emergency, the law provides that you or your loved one are entitled to compensation for pain and suffering, loss of income (past and future), medical expenses ( past and future) and other disbursements. Our lawyers know how to assess and maximize the compensation to which you are entitled under the law.

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