Medical malpractice: more than just OR or ER negligence

There are many different types of medical malpractice lawsuits that can be filed in Texas relating to birth and pregnancy. When most people think of "malpractice," though, they often envision a negligent doctor doing something grossly negligent in an inherently dangerous arena, such as an operating room or delivery suite. Many medical malpractice suits can be more mundane on the surface, however, despite still involving potentially deadly errors for mother and baby.

One type of malpractice suit that may be appropriate for some is a misdiagnosis suit. Essentially, this is what it sounds like: a suit filed when a physician or related professional incorrectly identifies a patient's condition or fails to recognize that the patient has a disease in the first place. A misdiagnosis suit can be filed even if a doctor properly diagnoses a patient later on. A delayed diagnosis may prove deadly in some situations; delays in treatment also can cause a patient to experience a worsened condition. In either scenario, the costs of such delay can grow exponentially over time. If a misdiagnosis occurs with a pregnant woman, the damages suffered can affect the unborn child, as well as an expecting mother.

Interestingly, many potential misdiagnosis suits are left unfiled. According to one study from the Veterans Administration system in Texas, primary care visits numbering at around 500 million give an opportunity for about 500,000 misdiagnosis events. However, the National Center for Policy Analysis notes that a majority of lawsuits centering on failure to diagnose do not ultimately get filed. This may be due to the non-reporting of many misdiagnosis errors.

Doctors have a strong incentive not to report misdiagnoses or delivery room negligence. Still, unlike negligence that occurs during the birth of a baby or amidst an operation, a misdiagnosis often involves just one person responsible, rather than a team of professionals. It is therefore easier for the responsible party to fail to report misdiagnosis mistakes. It follows that a patient may have to get the process started themselves by speaking with a malpractice attorney when it comes to taking action to address a misdiagnosis.