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Are delayed diagnosis claims grounds for wrongful death lawsuit?

As in other states, the conduct of health care providers in Pennsylvania is measured against an expected standard of care when they treat patients. Any violations of acceptable medical standards can lead to medical malpractice lawsuits. If you have lost a loved one and you suspect that his or her death resulted from a doctor's failure to make an accurate and timely diagnosis, you might have questions about the viability of a wrongful death claim.

The court will base the physician's actions on that which any competent doctor would have provided, and if the court finds that the doctor breached the standard of care, he or she may be legally responsible. Although many wrongful death claims involving medical malpractice follow allegations of delayed diagnosis, that may not be enough to convince the court.

What do you need to prove medical malpractice?

If you want to hold a doctor legally responsible for a diagnostic error, you -- or your legal representative -- must prove three particular elements of truth to substantiate a claim of medical malpractice. These include the following:

  • An existing relationship between the patient and the physician
  • Negligence in the care that the doctor provided
  • That negligence caused the injury or condition that led to the patient's death

How will you prove negligence?

The delay of an accurate diagnosis does not necessarily constitute negligence. This is a complicated field of the law, and a task you will likely leave up to your legal representative who can secure the services of expert witnesses. They can evaluate the competency with which the diagnosing doctor acted.

In some cases, the court might determine that the delayed diagnosis subjected the patient to severe treatments, such as chemotherapy or radiation, which might have been avoidable had the diagnosis been timely. Unnecessary drastic procedures can result in an avoidable death. An expert witness will be able to determine diagnostic accuracy and the possibility of negligence on the part of the doctor.

Other diagnostic errors that may cause death

During the investigation, other factors may become evident that might show negligence related to the diagnostic process. Here are some of those factors:

  • Ignoring the patient's risk factors and symptoms
  • Failure to order all the necessary diagnostic tests
  • Misinterpretation of test results, mammograms and more
  • Failing to discuss the test results with other physicians, specialists and/or the patient

Medical malpractice is one field of the law that you may not want to navigate on your own. If, with experienced guidance and support, you are successful in your pursuit of damage recovery through the civil court, you can expect to be awarded compensation for financial and emotional damages brought about by the delayed diagnosis of your loved one's condition.

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