Failing to recognize symptoms in a patient can lead to a range of consequences, some mild and barely noticeable, but others very severe and possibly fatal. Physicians have a duty to provide a certain standard of care for patients, and a big part of that is recognizing and taking note of symptoms to use those symptoms as part of diagnosing and treating conditions.
When there is a failure to see all the symptoms a patient has it may constitute negligence on the part of a doctor or other medical professional. This occurs when it is possible to prove the professional breached the duty of care and caused significant harm and damages to the patient. If you believe you suffered harm because a doctor failed to recognize all of your symptoms, you may have a valid case for medical malpractice.
Not Recognizing All Symptoms
When patients are receiving medical care, whether from a regular, primary physician, a nurse in a clinic, an emergency room doctor, or in any other situation, making note of symptoms is one of the biggest components. Physicians have a responsibility to examine, observe, and listen to patients in order to determine what all of the symptoms are.
A physician may not recognize all symptoms for a variety of reasons. The patient, for instance, may not relay all symptoms. But, often the doctor is the one to make a mistake, not paying close enough attention, not taking enough time to observe the patient, not listening to the patient, and not considering all possible symptoms the patient may have in a particular situation.
When Missing Symptoms is Negligence
Negligence can be proven in a medical malpractice case when there is evidence for a chain of four events: First, the patient must prove that there was a duty of care and a doctor-patient relationship. This is usually easy to prove. Then it must be proven that the duty of care was breached, which can be more difficult to prove. Finally it must be shown that the breach caused harm to the patient and that the harm caused damages that were significant.
With failure to recognize symptoms there is definitely a potential to be able to prove negligence in a malpractice case. If it can be shown that a similar doctor in the same situation would have done something differently that would have led to noticing the missed symptoms and using them to provide care, the case may be malpractice.
Some examples that might constitute negligence include a physician not taking enough time with a patient and failing to see all the symptoms as a result. A physician or other medical professional that is not experienced enough to catch all symptoms, or who should have been supervised when seeing a patient may also be a cause of negligent missed symptoms.
Potential Consequences of Missing Symptoms
Failing to diagnose a patient with a condition, either at all or in a timely fashion, is one of the most common reasons that medical malpractice cases are filed. And this is one of the most serious consequences that my result from missing symptoms. If a doctor does not recognize all the symptoms a patient has, it may not be possible to make the right diagnosis or a timely diagnosis. The resulted can be serious, including the condition getting worse, delayed treatment, or getting the wrong treatment. These errors can then lead to pain, worse symptoms, disability, and even death.
Some examples of what may happen when symptoms are not fully recognized include missing the symptoms of a severe allergic reaction. If this reaction is not immediately treated it can be fatal. Another very serious situation may occur when hospital staff fails to notice the signs that a patient has developed sepsis, a severe systemic infection that can also be fatal. During labor and delivery, nurses and doctors may fail to recognize symptoms of fetal or maternal distress that could lead to birth injuries and permanent disabilities.
Examples of Failing to Recognize Symptoms
There are many malpractice cases that demonstrate a physician or other professional failed to recognize all of a patient’s symptoms and that these mistakes led to serious and often devastating consequences. In one particularly difficult case, a family sued the emergency room that treated their four-year-old daughter. They took her to the emergency room late one night for a fever. They were given antibiotics and sent home shortly after arriving.
The next morning the little girl was dead, and an autopsy revealed she had bacterial meningitis, a serious infection. The case the parents are filing claims that the emergency room doctors should have noted symptoms, such as vomiting, diarrhea, rapid heart rate, and abnormal breathing. The resident who treated the girl was not adequately supervised, and this may have been why symptoms were missed and the girl was not diagnosed.
In another case a woman died a year after a stroke that her doctor failed to diagnose because he ignored any of her symptoms. Her family won $1.2 million in damages from a jury that found the doctor was negligent. She had clear symptoms of a stroke, including dizziness, tingling, blurred vision, and others. And yet her doctor ignored those signs and diagnosed her with something much less serious.
These cases are not always fatal but can still cause serious harm and damages. This was the case in New York where a woman won $8 million after a worsening infection left her paralyzed. She went to her dentist complaining of an abscess. The dentist drained it but did not see all the symptoms that she actually had a serious infection. The result was that she suffered for ten more days with a MRSA infection that had spread to her spine by then. She was left paralyzed from the neck down.
These and other cases are more common than many people realize. They often result in misdiagnoses or delayed diagnoses that cause patients to suffer or even die. When doctors and other professionals don’t take into account all the symptoms a patient is exhibiting, or they miss symptoms, the consequences can range from worsening symptoms to pain to more medical expenses, and even death. If you feel that a medical professional did not take adequate care of you and missed some of your symptoms, leading to a misdiagnosis and harm, you may have a valid malpractice case.