Can physicians be held responsible for a misdiagnosis?

No one enjoys being sick. Some minor illnesses, such as a cold, mean a day or two off work, spent in bed with a box of tissues and some cold medicine. Other illnesses though, are much more serious, necessitating a hospital stay, strong prescription medications and weeks or even months away from work. However, no matter how serious the illness, people in Pennsylvania trust that when they go to their doctor for a diagnosis, it will be correct and an appropriate treatment plan developed.

Unfortunately, things are not always that easy. Physicians may erroneously diagnoses a patient’s medical condition. Or, there may be a delay in obtaining the proper diagnosis, worsening the condition. Nonetheless, it is possible that the physician could be held responsible for the damages the patient suffered because of their medical negligence.

But, physicians often establish what they call a “differential diagnosis.” In doing so, they will name off possible diagnoses to the patient from most probable to least probable. Therefore, if a patient is pursuing a medical malpractice lawsuit, the patient must show that, under similar circumstances, a reasonably prudent physician would have, based on the symptoms the patient presented, determined the right diagnosis as a possibility to be included on the differential diagnosis list. If the physician failed to do so, a medical malpractice lawsuit may be pursued.

In addition, if there is a misdiagnosis, and a person is treated based on that misdiagnosis, it could actually cause the person further harm. Physicians may dismiss certain symptoms the patient is presenting, leading to a worsened condition. Erroneous treatment can also take place if the person did receive a correct diagnosis, but it was not properly treated, leading to further damages. In either of these cases, a person may want to pursue a medical malpractice lawsuit.

In the end, it is important for physicians in Pennsylvania to properly diagnose and treat their patients. If they fail to do so, and the patient suffers further harm, it may be possible for that patient to seek compensation through a medical malpractice lawsuit.

Source:, “Failed/Erroneous Diagnosis and Treatment,” accessed on May 7, 2017