Failure to Diagnose

The Difference Between Misdiagnosis, Delayed Diagnosis and Failure to Diagnose

When you go to the doctor for medical care, you expect your experience to be professional and your healthcare practitioners to be knowledgeable and accurate. Unfortunately, that doesn’t always happen. Depending on the medical condition you are coping with, a timely and correct diagnosis can be the difference between life and death. Whether it’s a misdiagnosis, delayed diagnosis or outright failure to diagnose, you may have a right to compensation.


Misdiagnosis occurs when a doctor incorrectly diagnoses an illness, injury or disease. If the incorrect diagnosis leads to harm in the patient, it could lead to a medical malpractice claim. For example, if Matt is suffering from a heart attack but an emergency room doctor believes it’s a muscle strain, and that misdiagnosis leads to death or long-term complications, that doctor might be liable. It’s important to note that every misdiagnosis does not constitute malpractice. Your lawyer and evidence must demonstrate that a knowledgeable doctor acting in the same situation would not have made the same error.

Delayed Diagnosis

Delayed diagnosis is when the right diagnosis is eventually given, but only after a severe delay. For a malpractice case to have merit, that delay in diagnosis must negatively impact patient health and stem from medical negligence. Delayed diagnosis is the most common type of medical malpractice, and it can contribute to a severe illness getting much worse in a short span of time. Many illnesses like cancer can be treated if caught early. However, a delay in a proper diagnosis can push the disease past an easily-treatable stage in days, weeks or months.

How does a delayed diagnosis occur? Some of the most common reasons include:

  • Not listening carefully to a patient’s complaint
  • Minimizing symptoms
  • Ignoring medical history
  • Failing to monitor weight loss/gain, vital sign changes, etc.
  • Failing to order medical tests
  • Assuming details about a patient’s life based on stereotypes, age, gender or lifestyle
  • Suggesting or performing a procedure before checking for contraindications
  • Failing to consider differential diagnoses

Failure to Diagnose

Failure to diagnose occurs when a doctor completely missed the right diagnosis until the patient experienced irreversible harm or died. Heart disease, HIV, cancer and syphilis are all treatable when diagnosed properly and fatal if there is a failure to diagnose. If a health care provider failed to diagnose a serious medical condition as a result of negligence, the provider might be liable for medical malpractice or a wrongful death suit. 

When You Need an Experienced Maryland Medical Malpractice Lawyer, Call Mobley and Brown, LLP

If you want guidance throughout your medical malpractice claim, contact Mobley and Brown, LLP today. Our experienced legal team will work with you to meet your needs and ensure you receive what you are entitled to. Call us now at (410) 385-0398 or toll-free at (833) 355-9897.