What to do when you think diagnostic mistakes killed a loved one?
The average person does not have the knowledge to diagnose themselves or a loved one with a serious medical condition. The most they can do is keep a record of the symptoms that have developed and then make an appointment with their primary care physicians.
Unfortunately, even when you see a doctor for your medical issues, there is no guarantee that they will effectively diagnose you. It is much more common than people realize for doctors to make major diagnostic errors.
If you recently lost a loved one and believe that the tragedy is in part due to a doctor’s failure to discern the true cause of their symptoms, their death could be the result of medical malpractice. How do you verify the suspicions that you have about the situation?
Request forensic review
One of the most important tools to help grieving family members understand why they recently lost a loved one is a professional forensic medical evaluation or autopsy. Autopsies are highly effective at establishing the existence of a previously undiagnosed medical issue that likely contributed to someone’s death.
Research at specific medical facilities has found that sometimes as many as 17% of autopsies turn up evidence of diagnostic mistakes after patients die. Without an official diagnosis, even a post-mortem one, your family may have a hard time holding a medical professional or facility responsible for failing so extremely in the standard of care provided for the person you love.
Speak to other medical professionals
Having the medical records that show that your loved one sought care and that a facility or professional failed to diagnose them can absolutely strengthen your case. Of course, just showing that the doctor didn’t order medical tests won’t necessarily be sufficient.
It will improve your case if you can find another medical professional to testify that it would be common sense for anyone in their profession to engage in additional testing or review given the symptoms someone presented. Misdiagnosis and diagnostic failures may both represent significant deviations from best practices in different areas of medicine.
Having another professional in a similar field review your loved one’s records could help validate your belief that a competent professional could have diagnosed them and prevented their death. Most people will also require the help of a lawyer, as medical malpractice claims often involved intensive negotiations with insurance professionals and sometimes even litigation in civil court.
Taking action when you believe that medical malpractice is to blame for your loved one’s recent death requires careful planning but can create consequences for the professionals that failed the person you love.