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Differential Diagnosis and Medical Malpractice

When you are receiving medical care, the doctor might want to do a differential diagnosis to determine the most likely cause of your health problem. When you go to a doctor with a complaint, the doctor will ask many questions, to narrow down what the most likely cause is for your sickness.

Once the doctor has formed an opinion about what the most likely causes could be, he will order different types of clinical and diagnostic tests to confirm the cause of your illness. He might order x-rays, scans, blood tests, and other procedures to find out for sure the underlying cause of your complaints. The various tests are conducted to rule out or rule in what exactly you have.

Failure to Perform Differential Diagnosis

If you have filed a medical malpractice case, your attorney will have the opportunity to question the doctor you are suing. If the case is based on misdiagnosis or failure to diagnose, your lawyer will ask the doctor, what were the causes he was considering? The doctor might give an entire list of causes that he was considering, which were possible for the problem.

For instance, the lawyer will take the first one on the list, and ask the doctor-with regard to your belief that the problem might have been cancer, what clinical tests were ordered to rule out the fact that my client would have cancer? What diagnostic test did you perform to determine whether my client had cancer? What was the next most likely condition, you think the patient had?

Wrong or Ineffective Treatment

The lawyer will go through the entire list, asking the doctor about the tests that were completed. In addition, whether the doctor believed he could rule in or rule out the various conditions based on those tests. The lawyer will further inquire if the doctor believed that failure to properly evaluate each of those most likely conditions would be a departure from good and accepted medical care.

Ultimately, the doctor will have to say yes, because it is sound medical practice to create a list of the most likely causes of the particular problem of the patient, and begin to rule out each of the things on the list to arrive at the exact cause of the problem, in order to prescribe the correct treatment plan.

Hence, differential diagnosis is the first thing a doctor should be doing, in order to find out the exact cause of your health problem. If a doctor simply goes along with his opinion and does not carry out the required tests for confirming the cause of the health problem, he could prescribe a treatment plan, which could not only be ineffective, but also dangerous for the patient.

The Wrong Focus

Therefore, failure to perform a differential diagnosis would be grounds for a medical malpractice case, if the patient has suffered due to the wrong or ineffective treatment. When the problem is not diagnosed correctly, it is obvious the doctor will then be prescribing the wrong treatment, since it will be addressing something entirely different from what the patient is actually suffering from.

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