What can be done regarding a missed diagnosis?

I was loosing blood from my bowls which caused me to fall out. 2days later I went to the ER and explained my symptoms and all that had happened to me days earlier. I even told them that I had a family history of colon cancer. They took blood, gave me a CT scan of my abdomen, and after 3 hours later, I was told that I probably had an infection. The doctor wrote me a prescription for antibiotics and hemorrhoid cream, and sent me home. I went to another hospital and it turned out that I had a polp on my colon which was removed right away. Do I have a case against the first hospital?

Asked on December 7, 2010 under Malpractice Law, New Jersey


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

There is no definitive answer. Medical malpractice is when a doctor or other medical care provider (e.g. hospital, clinic) provides care that does not meet the generally accepted standards of medical care. The fact of a bad outcome or missed diagnosis does  not, by itself, mean there was malpractice; instead, the issue will turn on whether the doctor, etc. *should* have spotted the polp. Was it missed because the medical team was in a hurry? Because they were not well trained? Because they did not use the right tests, or equipment, or methodology? In that case, they may well have committed malpractice. But if they missed it simply because medicine is not an exact science and sometimes conditions are missed or misdiagnosed, that is not malpractice. It depends on the circumstances and what they did and how they did it.

Also, you can only sue for the damages--or economic losses and pain and suffering--you incurred as a result of alleged malpractice. If, at the end of the day, you had a good outcome and came to about the same place, in terms of suffering and cost, as you would have reached had the polp been diagnosed correctly immediately, there's not really anything to sue for--you couldn't collect much money.

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