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Wrong Diagnosis

When is Wrong Diagnosis Medical Negligence?

If your medical practitioner made a wrong diagnosis, but it did not lead to permanent damage or excessive suffering, would it still be medical malpractice? To answer the question, let us consider what a wrong diagnosis is.

A wrong diagnosis is when the medical practitioner incorrectly states that you have a certain condition or makes an error in identifying the underlying cause of a condition. If the doctor follows correct procedure in identifying the cause of your condition, then it cannot be negligence. If the practitioner is competent and qualified to make the diagnosis and has considered all contributing factors, then the practitioner has followed a reasonable standard of care in deriving at a decision.

If, however, the wrong diagnosis came about as the result of incorrect procedures being followed in deriving the decision, it can be construed as negligence. It can also be negligence if the practitioner was not qualified to make the diagnosis and did not refer you to a specialist or medical practitioner who is qualified, experienced, and competent to make the diagnosis or the practitioner did not perform relevant tests.

The above said, it could only be medical negligence if the wrong diagnosis led to injury and damages. Here too it is important to consider the level of injury. Was it slight discomfort because of delayed correct treatment? Did it cause you to lose work time? The extent of the injury and damages must be considered.

You also need to consider whether there was a medical practitioner and patient relationship. Did the doctor have a duty of care? As the patient, you have to prove the following:

  • A doctor-patient relationship existed and the practitioner had a duty of care.
  • The wrong diagnosis was the result of the practitioner’s incompetence or not following a reasonable standard of care to make the diagnosis.
  • The wrong diagnosis led to injury and damages.


Many competent medical practitioners make mistakes. Indeed, it would be rather difficult for a doctor never to make a mistake. The question is whether the mistake was the result of the doctor’s lack of care, if an incorrect procedure was being followed, and not adhering to a reasonable standard in deriving the decision. It is also a question of whether the doctor did realise his or her mistake and took corrective steps.

Simply taking legal steps against a medical practitioner for the wrong diagnosis is not recommended unless all the conditions for negligence have been met. If, however, you did suffer injury and the wrong diagnosis delayed correct treatment, the doctor did not follow reasonable procedures in diagnosing you, and had a duty of care, then you should seek legal guidance as soon as possible.

An example of where the wrong diagnosis causes suffering is when a patient is diagnosed with a repeated ear and throat infection. The patient receives treatment for such, but several months down the line, after the patient has suffered immense pain and the condition has worsened, the doctor calls for tests to determine if it could be something more serious. The test results show that the patient has mouth cancer. Due to the delayed treatment, however, the cancer is at an advanced stage and excessive invasive procedures are needed to treat the condition.

If you have suffered any such inconvenience, pain and damage as the result of a wrong diagnosis, do not delay. Seek legal guidance from our team at Adele van der Walt Incorporated regarding the steps to take in order to be compensated for the injury and damages.


Information in this article is not intended as legal advice and is only for informational purposes. Please seek legal guidance from Adele van der Walt before relying on this information to make any legal decisions.

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