More Articles

Patient Misdiagnosis

Patient Misdiagnosis in South Africa: When is It Medical Malpractice?

Media reports show that many people are misdiagnosed for conditions, such as cancer and diabetes in the USA. The situation is not much different in South Africa. One simply has to read the news headlines to realise that it is also a problem locally. However, patient misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis is not necessarily medical malpractice.

What Does Misdiagnosis Include?

It includes delayed or complete failure to diagnose a condition or diagnosing a patient for a condition that the patient does not suffer from. Although it is possible that a doctor can deliberately diagnose a patient for a non-existent condition to commercially gain from the treatments to be given for the condition, in most instances, misdiagnosis is not on purpose.

Considering that the healthcare professional may not have access to all the information needed to make an accurate diagnosis, it is possible that the patient can be partially to blame. If the person, for instance, fails to disclose previous instances of the same symptoms or a history of the condition in the family, the doctor may not immediately connect the symptoms with a particular condition.

Even in the instance where the doctor follows correct procedure in diagnosing the condition, a lack of information can cause them to make a mistake. Only if the misdiagnosis causes the condition to worsen and leads to injury, as well as damages, is it malpractice.

Keep in mind that medical lawsuits are expensive and often take years to conclude. The injury and damages suffered must thus be substantial to warrant going through extensive legal proceedings.

Factors to consider in determining the merits of the malpractice case include:

  • Was there a doctor-patient relationship? If the medical professional agreed to examine the person and prescribed treatment, then a professional care relationship did exist.
  • Was sub-standard care provided? If the practitioner was negligent in the procedure for diagnosing the condition, then it was malpractice. The negligence is measured against what a trained professional would have done in a similar situation. If the diagnosis could have been correct, had the practitioner ordered blood tests or the analysis of a urine sample, then it can be argued that a reasonable standard of care was not provided.
  • Did the person suffer injuries as the result of the negligence? The injuries must be directly related to the misdiagnosis, non-diagnosis, or delayed diagnosis, and not as the result of something the patient did or did not do.
  • Did the person sustain damage as the result of injuries, such as medical costs, loss of earnings, pain, and suffering?

Keep in mind that all the requirements for malpractice must be met to claim compensation. If the healthcare professional followed correct procedure in diagnosing and treating the person, but the diagnosis was wrong because of faulty equipment, it would be difficult to prove malpractice, unless the practitioner knew they were using defective tools or equipment.

If you have suffered injuries and damages as the result of misdiagnosis, call Adele van der Walt Incorporated for legal assistance to determine the merits of your case.

Disclaimer: This article is for information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Call on our attorneys for legal advice, rather than relying on the information herein to make any decisions. The information is relevant to the date of publishing – September 2019.

Contact us