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Posted on 7th April 2017

Misdiagnosis FAQs

How common is misdiagnosis?

In 2014/15 there were 1,136 claims for "failure to diagnose" or "delayed diagnosis", and 150 claims for "wrong diagnosis".

Failure to diagnose occurs when a medical practitioner does not provide the proper diagnosis to their patient at any point.

Delayed diagnosis occurs when a medical practitioner takes a long time to find the right diagnosis and the time delay causes harm.

Wrong diagnosis occurs when a medical practitioner diagnoses a patient with something they don't have. This is also called misdiagnosis.

Does misdiagnosis count as malpractice?

Not always, but it can. If a doctor has done everything reasonable within their power to come to the right diagnosis, for example, checked your medical history, applied sufficient knowledge based on their experience and grade, and done the appropriate tests and examinations, and they still get it wrong, then this probably won't count as malpractice.

If a doctor fails to do any of the above and doesn't perform their medical duty properly, leading to a misdiagnosis, then negligence has probably happened.

Can I sue for misdiagnosis?

If misdiagnosis has happened as a result of malpractice or medical negligence then you can sue or make a claim. If you have experienced misdiagnosis but you're not sure if it counts the best option is to talk to a solicitor.

What does misdiagnosis mean?

Misdiagnosis is when a medical practitioner, such as a doctor, believes you have a disease or illness that you don't have. You'll be told you have a particular illness, but actually your body is suffering from something else. This can lead to treatment which is inappropriate.

How can misdiagnosis be prevented?

It's generally accepted that medical science is not exact and that misdiagnosis is unfortunately something that can happen without the doctor doing anything wrong. However, in some cases misdiagnosis can happen because your doctor has failed in their duty of care towards you, by not performing the correct procedures and tests based on your symptoms. If you think this has happened to you, get in touch and we can help you decide whether what you experienced was negligence in the eyes of the law.

Here are some common questions about misdiagnosis

Are misdiagnosed miscarriages common?

In 2013/14 11% of clinical negligence claims were to do with maternity issues. This will include misdiagnosis of miscarriage amongst other pregnancy and birth complications, though misdiagnosis is thought to be quite rare.

Misdiagnosis of miscarriage can happen when the date of conception is inaccurate and ultrasounds are interpreted as slow development of the baby, which can indicate a likelihood of miscarriage. If a pregnant woman experiences heavy bleeding which can happen during pregnancy without there being a miscarriage this can be misinterpreted.

Can scabies be misdiagnosed?

The initial stages of scabies can sometimes be misdiagnosed because the early symptoms of the disease are hard to distinguish from the symptoms of other skin diseases. The symptoms specific to scabies only appear after 4 to 6 weeks.

An experienced doctor should be able to identify the difference between scabies and other ailments by examining the rash. Scabies rashes looks like zig-zag red and grey lines.

Can mesothelioma be misdiagnosed?

Mesothelioma is difficult to diagnose partly because it's a very rare cancer that most doctors will not have encountered before. The symptoms of mesothelioma are very similar to other, more common illnesses.

It often gets misdiagnosed as pneumonia or other types of cancer.

Is cellulitis commonly misdiagnosed?

Cellulitis is sometimes misdiagnosed as stasis dermatitis, contact dermatitis and inflammatory tinea. If you think you've been misdiagnosed you should seek a second medical opinion.

Further Information